I have been going to USF since 2005, the same year the Bulls began a four-year series with the University of Central Florida. This was supposed to be a big rivalry for two programs on the rise. It was supposed to grow into the next Florida/Florida State game. The thing of it is, I’ve noticed one teeny-weeny problem with this rivalry: UCF just isn’t ready to compete with a team as good as the Bulls.
People in Orlando might hate me right now, but I think that during Saturday’s 64-12 thrashing by the Bulls, the Knights looked like they would have had trouble matching up with Walt Disney’s Goof Troop – let alone the No. 2 team in the nation.
UCF looked out-matched at every position. Kevin Smith – who was leading the nation in rushing yards per game – looked like he couldn’t run through a turnstile. Smith was held to just 55 yards on 18 carries. The only time Smith put points on the board was when he tripped in his own end zone to give the Bulls a safety. Smith was not the only Knight to feel the wrath of the USF defense. Quarterbacks Kyle Israel and Michael Greco were held to just 84 passing yards combined. Even worse for the Knights – their defense couldn’t force a turnover.
It seemed that everything the Knights did wrong, the Bulls did right. Quarterback Matt Grothe totaled 312 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in just 3 quarters of work. In fact, this game was the first in USF history that saw three USF quarterbacks throw touchdown passes. Grant Gregory threw a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter and Anthony Severino had a scoring toss late in the game.
On defense, the Bulls looked just as dangerous. Defensive end George Selvie had another big game, tallying five tackles (four for a loss), a sack and a forced fumble. Mike Jenkins grabbed his second interception of the season, and the Bulls defense held the Knights to a lone safety in the second half.
The numbers did not lie in this game. It was the first sellout crowd in the series’ three-year history. It was also the worst loss in UCF’s Division 1-A history. The Bulls’ 64 points were the fourth-most scored in team history. In the games against Kentucky Wesleyan (80), Cumberland (69) and Liberty (68), when USF scored more points, the Bulls were still in Division 1-AA. On Saturday, the Bulls beat up a much weaker team the way a National Championship contender is supposed to. On top of that, the Bulls improved to 3-0 all-time against the Knights.
I know fans of both teams want to see this rivalry continue, but a good rivalry is based on seeing classic games. Competitive games. Can’t-miss games. USF vs. UCF is not a can’t-miss game. USF owns this series, having outscored UCF 119-43 in three meetings. The Bulls out-gained the Knights by nearly 400 yards on Saturday, and most of the offensive starters watched the backup players drop 21 points on the hapless Knights in the fourth quarter.
It is a lot of fun for both schools – being so close together – to play for pride and bragging rights. The only thing UCF fans can brag about after Saturday’s game was the fact that they didn’t get shut out. They also got to play most of a game on ESPNU (although the game was so lopsided that the station began broadcasting another game at the beginning of the fourth quarter). The Knights also hung tough with the now-No. 2 team in the country for an entire quarter (USF was leading 12-7 after one).
This rivalry just isn’t competitive enough to be a sustaining and entertaining rivalry. As fun as it is to watch, USF needs to open up the spot on their schedule for a Florida team that will make for an actual rivalry.