UCF seniors seeking second bowl victory
The future is uncertain. But perhaps no more than it is for the University of Central Florida, which is about to play its final bowl game as a Conference USA team and move on to the Big East in 2013.
No conference has been picked apart like the Big East. West Virginia left for the Big 12; Rutgers is heading for the Big Ten; Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville will join the ACC in the next few years and seven basketball powers are moving on to form another league.
“We don’t really get caught up in any of that,” senior halfback Dontravius Floyd said. “We’re just trying to finish off the season on a good note.”
The forecast for UCF and the Big East is for thunderstorms in 2013, but the present looks clear. UCF (9-4) is enjoying one of its best four-year runs since the Knights made the jump from Division I-AA to I-A in 1996.
For the 20 seniors, they have a 33-19 record at UCF. A win over Ball State in the Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl on Friday night would give them win No. 34, making them the winningest senior class since the Knights moved to the highest level of college football.
“That would be the icing on the cake,” senior fullback Billy Giovanetti said.
The group of seniors has meshed well from the start, and they've delivered some strong performances in their final year in Orlando. Latavius Murray ran for 1,035 yards and had 14 rushing touchdowns, the second most in a single season at the school. Quincy McDuffie had 28 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns. The Knights’ offense is 25th in the Football Bowl Subdivision, scoring 35.2 points per game.
And the defense has been strong, allowing just 22.4 points per game (29th in the FBS). Two seniors have turned in career years -- free safety Kemal Ishmael has 116 tackles and three interceptions and linebacker Jonathan Davis has 94 tackles and 2.5 sacks after playing running back his first two years in Orlando.
“Since Day 1, coming in as freshmen, it seems like we all got along well,” Giovanetti said. “And that chemistry has rubbed off throughout the team. I feel like this is the closest team that we've been on.”
The team has been successful on the field, helping UCF win its fourth division title in eight years. But off the field, the Knights have excelled, too.
Ten of the seniors have already earned their bachelor’s degrees.
“It would feel good to know that you are the most successful class at UCF,” Floyd said. “We came in together, we worked hard together, on the field and in the classroom.”
O’Leary has been building success at UCF through the years. This would be the Knights’ second 10-win season in three years (they won 11 games in 2010 and beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl).
There’s no telling what lies ahead for the Knights as they leave C-USA and move toward the Big East. But O’Leary is looking forward to one last game with his seniors and sees this class for what it has done on and off the field.
“It’s a class that should be honored,” O’Leary said. “This senior class has done a lot for the fan base and the school.”