UCF Knights stun Florida Gators 29-17 at Gasparilla Bowl: game recap

TAMPA – The UCF Knights surprised the Florida Gators on Thursday night at the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.

UCF’s Ryan O’Keefe covered 110 yards and caught 7 balls for 85 yards and a touchdown to help the Knights (9-4) secure their first victory over the Gators (6-7) in three tries. Isaiah Bowser led the Knights with 35 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns.

Florida quarterback Emory Jones completed 14 of 36 for 171 yards and missed several deep throws that could have led to easy touchdowns. Jones finished with 10 carries for 62 rushing yards. Jones will now enter the transfer portal.

Florida running backs Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce combined for 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but the Gators couldn’t muster any offense when they needed it most.

Florida Gators to now officially hand over to new head coach Billy Napier as he continues to train his staff in Gainesville.

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23:02 | Bol Gasparilla – Fourth Quarter

What went well: Emory Jones completed a pair of over 20-yard passes in the Gators’ first practice in the fourth quarter, but it turned up nothing on the scoreboard.

What went wrong: Howard missed his second field goal which would have reduced UCF’s lead to 26-20. Instead, UCF took their time running the length of the pitch before adding another basket with less than three minutes to go, essentially sealing the Knights victory. Florida’s concerns quickly turned to the health of wide receiver Justin Shorter, who had to be pulled out after receiving a dangerous blow on a stray pass.

Quarter game: Isaiah Bowser’s 24-yard run ensured there would be no return to Florida.

– Graham Room

22:29 | UCF extends lead over Florida

Knights kicker Daniel Obarski scores from a 33-yard field goal with 2:41 left. UCF now leads 29-17

22:13 | UCF on the verge of overthrowing Florida

The Knights still have a 26-17 lead as Florida kicker Chris Howard misses a crucial 45-yard field goal with 7:57 left in the fourth.

10:03 pm | Bol Gasparilla – Third Quarter

What went well: Malik Davis’ 19-yard run restored Florida’s one-point lead, although it didn’t last long. From there, not much has gone well for the Gators.

What went wrong: Florida’s rush defense continued to be slashed as Ryan O’Keefe ran 74 yards on UCF’s second practice in the third quarter to set up Isaiah Bowser’s 4-yard touchdown a game later. The UCF scored again with just over three minutes on the clock when Daniel Obarski posted a 21-yard field goal to give the Knights a 19-17 lead. On the next drive, Jacob Copeland was whistled for offensive pass interference on the third down, and UF had to push him back instead. Mikey Keene hit a 54-yard touchdown on the very next play to increase the lead to 26-17.

The quarter game: Keene’s scoring made it a two-possession game just before the last 15 minutes of play – a potentially decisive touchdown.

Tendency: Down nine, Florida look to their defense for a save as loss looks more likely.

– Graham Room

21:52 | Knights strike Florida again

After the Gators missed what would have been a long touchdown pass on the third down, UCF’s Mikey Keene recovers the ball and hits Ryan O’Keefe for 54 yards. The Knights are now in control, 26-17, as the third quarter draws to a close.

21:46 | UCF regains advantage over Florida with short FG

Daniel Obarski’s 21-yard FG gives the Knights a 19-17 lead. Obarski is now 2 for 3 on field goals

9:34 pm | Gators respond with big runs to take a 17-16 lead

Florida running back Malik Davis had a 36-yard run and then finished the run with a 19-yard touchdown run just between tackles. Davis now has six carries for 81 yards.

9:19 pm: the Knights seize the UF in the second half

UCF running back Ryan O’Keefe sprints 74 meters the sideline to set up a 4-yard touchdown from Isaiah Bowser. Ty’Ron Hopper of Florida was kicked out for throwing a punch at PAT. UCF leads the gators 16-10 with 9:56 remaining.

Questionable call? :Ty’Ron Hopper is ejected for an apparent punch after a breakout game for the Florida Gators

8:48 p.m. | Gasparilla Bowl – Second Quarter

What went well: He didn’t make his first attempt, but Chris Howard’s second field goal was good, putting Florida in the lead, 10-9, as half-time approached.

What went wrong: The UCF fired back with a rushed touchdown, though the Knights couldn’t convert the two-point conversion, keeping Florida’s lead intact. However, the Gators couldn’t extend it in their next practice, as Chris Howard’s 51-yard field goal attempts – his longest try of the season – nearly split the amounts. Florida also had a chance to play a big game in the middle of the quarter, but Emory Jones knocked down a wide-open Trent Whittemore in the middle.

The quarter game: Jones’ 20-yard run on the 3rd and 18th continued a practice that ended with Howard’s 26-yard field goal punt, which put UF back into the lead.

Tendency: The UCF recovers the ball to start the second half after the first 30 minutes of low-scoring action.

– Graham Room

Florida Gators linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. (1) sacked UCF Knights quarterback Mikey Keene (16) Thursday night at the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.

8:44 pm | Gators lead UCF at break

Emory Jones of the Gators completed 9 of 22 for 88 yards and ran eight times for 66 years. Dameon Pierce has 10 carriers for 52 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Gators amassed 145 yards on 21 carries.

UCF’s Mikey Keene completed 8 of 13 for 48 yards. The Knights rushed the ball 19 times for 92 yards.

8:29 pm | The Gators take the lead at the end of the first half over UCF

After missing a 51-yard attempt earlier in the quarter, Chris Howard of Florida connects on a 26-yard drive to give the Gators a 10-9 lead with 1:36 remaining in the second quarter of the Gasparilla Bowl.

8:16 pm | Knights get ahead of alligators

After a magnificent sack from Ty’Ron Hopper of Florida on the third down, UCF’s Daniel Obarski scored for 34 yards to give the Knights a 9-7 lead with 6:16 left in the second quarter.

7:59 p.m. UCF responds with a tutorial at the start of the second trimester

The Knights’ Isaiah Bowser goes 3 yards with 12:29 left in the half. Two point conversion failed. Alligators lead 7-6.

19h54 | Gasparilla Bowl – First Quarter

What went well: After six straight carries, the Gators converted to 3rd and 4th when Kemore Gamble hit a 15-yard reception, setting up Dameon Pierce’s 2-yard touchdown three games later, which allowed Florida to take 7-0 after the extra point.

What went wrong: The Gators committed one false start penalty in the very first game of the night before going three-and-out, then committed another towards the end of the first quarter with the ball deep in the territory of UCF. And the Florida run defense allowed 46 rushing yards over four plays to end the quarter.

Quarter game: It was Gamble’s catch-and-run that came after the Gators got the Knights thinking in yet another close-range situation.

Tendency: The Florida defense is looking to maintain its 7-0 lead as UCF have the ball over the UF’s 33-yard line to start the second quarter.

– Graham Room

Florida Gators running back Dameon Pierce (27) crossed the goal line to score a touchdown in the first quarter of the Gasparilla Bowl Thursday night in Tampa.  [Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner]

19:46 | Alligators strike first at the Gasparilla Bowl

Dameon Pierce takes a 2-yard lead to give Florida a 7-0 lead with 1:22 remaining in the first quarter. The Gators covered 58 yards in nine plays, highlighted by a nice 15-yard return from Emory Jones to Kemore Gamble.

19:39 | Florida, UCF in offensive difficulty

The Gators had two first downs in their first three downs, while UCF only had one first down on three possessions midway through the first quarter.

19:08 | Gators and Knights being played in the Gasparilla Bowl

First sold-out sale in the history of the pétanque game.

Florida receives the opening kickoff and will start at their own 25-yard line.

6:42 | Florida vs. UCF – Tale of the Band

Points per match – UF – 31.8. ; FUC – 32.2

yards per game – UF – 470.2; FUC – 399.7

Yard allowed per match – UF – 362.2. ; FUC – 368.9

5:48 pm | Gator Marching Band has arrived for the Gasparilla Bowl

5.30 p.m. | Gators favored by 6½ in the Gasparilla Bowl against UCF

According to Tipico sports betting, Florida are favored in tonight’s game by 6½ points over UCF.

The over-under for tonight’s game is 55.5.

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