I’ve cheered for UCF ever since Meghan enrolled at the University of Central Florida in 2002 except in the games when they competed against the University of Miami. This season, UCF hit the big time, and to celebrate their success, I asked Meghan to share the highs and lows of a Knights’ fan.
Twelve seasons ago I became a Knight when I stepped onto UCF’s campus as a freshman. It hasn’t always been easy to be a UCF fan. During that time, there was a 17 game losing streak. We struggled to put together back to back winning seasons. ESPN announcers continued to refer to us by the wrong name and the wrong mascot (we were called the “Black Knights” during the Fiesta Bowl). I can’t tell you how many times UCF has been referred to as a “sleeping giant” at the beginning of the season.
However, despite all of this, I have to say it’s been an amazing time to be a UCF fan. I remember how pumped we were when UCF joined the MAC my freshman year. But that didn’t compare to the enthusiasm that came with joining the Big East (now AAC) in 2013. I recall the excitement of the first CUSA Championship we played in at the Citrus Bowl in 2005 and our first bowl game that Christmas Eve.
Then in 2007, the Knights came home to a beautiful stadium on campus. In our first game at Brighthouse Networks Stadium, we lost to Texas 35-32 in the rain. The funny thing is, that game felt like a win to many UCF fans. We fought hard. Texas was expected to win easily. Nothing could dampen our spirits.
That same season we went on to win the CUSA Championship and play in the Liberty Bowl. In the time between then and the 2013 season, UCF won another CUSA title and played in three more bowl games, including a big bowl game victory over Georgia in the 2010 Liberty Bowl.
However, none of this could have prepared UCF fans for this season. Expectations were managed in the pre-season with talks of a young defense. The excitement began to build as UCF won its third game of the season 34-31 on the road against Penn State. The people surrounding us in the Key West bar where we watched the game were stunned by UCF’s first upset of the year.
South Carolina handed us our only loss of the season (28-25) two weeks later. But this was still a UCF team unlike others. The Knights went on to win the remainder of the regular season, including a huge upset at Louisville. The team even picked up a couple Sports Center Top 10 highlights along the way.
Then on January 1, 2014, UCF became the youngest school to play in a BCS bowl game. The analysts didn’t give the Knights a shot against sixth ranked Baylor. The Vegas line had UCF a 17 point underdog. What they didn’t account for was the Knights have a tendency to play to the level of their competition.
UCF got off to a quick two touchdown lead in the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor came back to tie the game, but for only the second time this season, the Bears never took the lead. UCF beat one of the best offenses in the country by ten points to become to win the school’s first BCS bowl game. Knights’ fans enjoyed a season of unforgettable, thrilling victories.
Fans got the chance to welcome their team home and thank them for a memorable season when they returned to campus last Thursday. They stood in the rain, decked out in sombreros and UCF apparel while holding signs and flags to greet their team. Players signed autographs, took pictures, and smiled from ear to ear. I’m excited to see what’s to come in UCF’s next 50 years.