SMU falls short to No. 15 UCF 17-13 on frigid day
SMU receiver Keenan Holman figures the warm-weather foes from
UCF didn’t have to adjust to a bitterly cold day any more than his
It was just plain frigid for both teams, and the Knights found a
way to persevere.
Blake Bortles threw for 242 yards and ran for two touchdowns,
and No. 15 UCF celebrated a BCS bid already in hand by adding the
outright American Athletic Conference title to the mix. The 17-13
victory Saturday came in front of just a few hundred fans who
braved the slick roads of a nasty ice storm.
”It’s 20 degree weather,” said Holman, who scored SMU’s only
touchdown. ”Unless you live in Green Bay, you ain’t ready for
this. I feel like both teams were on an even playing field.”
The Knights were a little sluggish early but said it had nothing
to do with the school’s first sub-freezing game.
”My hand got a little dry and that might explain a couple of
errant throws,” said Bortles, who put UCF ahead for the first time
on a 15-yard scramble to a touchdown that ended up being the final
points late in the third quarter. ”But no excuses. Weather really
didn’t have much of an impact on me.”
Surrounded by piles of ice cleared from the field in a scene
more suitable for Green Bay or Denver and with completely empty
stands behind their bench, the Knights (11-1, 8-0 AAC) set a school
record with their eighth straight win.
UCF wrapped up the conference’s automatic BCS bid when
Louisville beat Cincinnati on Thursday. This is the school’s second
11-win season, both in the past four seasons, in the program’s
The Knights, who went 11-3 in 2010 and beat Georgia in the
Liberty Bowl, passed around the conference championship trophy in a
much warmer locker room while the Mustangs held senior day
ceremonies on the frigid field after the game.
”Everybody’s excited,” UCF safety Brandon Alexander said. ”A
lot of people haven’t won a championship, me being one of
SMU (5-7, 4-4) saw its record bowl streak end at four seasons in
the coldest home game in school history – 24 degrees at kickoff. It
matched the 1983 Sun Bowl in El Paso as SMU’s coldest game.
Neal Burcham had 222 yards passing for the Mustangs and a
30-yard touchdown to Holman, who led all receivers with 91
”For me not to be playing in a bowl game with these guys, it’s
hurtful,” said Holman, a senior. ”I’m going to miss a lot of
The wintry blast that virtually shut down the Dallas-Fort Worth
area on Friday prompted officials to offer free admission. It
didn’t help much, with fewer than 1,000 fans showing up for the
game – far short of the announced attendance of 12,598.
The crowd stood throughout, but mostly because it was warmer
that way. The east side of SMU’s campus stadium behind the UCF
bench was empty.
There were a few UCF fans on the home side, and they were happy
when Bortles scrambled around left end and beat everyone to the
pylon to put the Knights up 17-13 late in the third quarter.
SMU twice failed on fourth down in UCF territory in the fourth
quarter. Redshirt freshman Neal Burcham, making his second straight
start for injured senior Garrett Gilbert, was stuffed and sustained
an apparent head injury on fourth-and-1 with 8:22 remaining.
Garrett Krstich replaced him on the next drive and threw
incomplete deep on his first play. Two snaps later, Clayton
Geathers made a diving interception, but Central Florida’s Shawn
Moffitt hit the upright on a 24-yard field that would have put the
Knights up by a touchdown.
Krstich still couldn’t move the Mustangs. He was forced to
scramble on fourth-and-14 and came up well short with 59 seconds
left. The Mustangs finished with their first losing record under
coach June Jones since he went 1-11 after taking over the moribund
program in 2008.
”It’s disappointing that we will not be in a bowl game,” Jones
said. ”We have to try to put it behind us, get the recruiting
season started as we have all our commits pretty much lined up for