Thursday, February 22, 2018
Colleges

UCF Knights, Ball State Cardinals to meet in Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl

After losing the Conference USA title game to Tulsa on Saturday, Central Florida knew it was going to the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

The Knights hoped to play a Big East opponent. But Sunday, they learned they will face Ball State, from the MAC, Dec. 21 at Tropicana Field.

The Beef 'O' Brady's bowl has an agreement with the Big East. But the conference had only five bowl-eligible teams for its six slots. Connecticut's loss to Cincinnati on Saturday left it 5-7, sent Pittsburgh to the Compass Bowl and opened up a spot for an at-large team.

"Ball State is a hot team right now, winning six straight," bowl executive director Brett Dulaney said; "including a road win over conference foe Toledo, which was ranked in the Top 25 at the time."

UCF coach George O'Leary was preparing for a recruiting trip and unavailable for comment.

The Cardinals are 9-3, their best season since 12-2 in 2008 under current Michigan coach Brady Hoke. It's only the sixth time in the program's 89-year history it has won nine or more games. And the combined record of the teams Ball State lost to is 33-5 (10-2 Clemson, 11-2 Kent State and 12-1 Northern Illinois).

One win came over USF, 31-27 in Muncie, Ind., when Keith Wenning hit Willie Snead for a 19-yard touchdown with 1:02 left. Wenning, a junior, has thrown for 2,878 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Snead has team highs of 82 catches, 1,070 yards and seven touchdown catches.

Ball State is 0-5 in bowls. Its last one was the January 2009 GMAC, a 45-13 loss to Tulsa.

"Our program is extremely pleased to be representing the MAC," Pete Lembo, 14-9 in his two seasons as Cardinals coach, said in a statement released by Ball State.

"We have had an outstanding season and are looking forward to allowing the fans of Florida and our fans across the country to see our exciting team.

UCF lost two of its three games against Ball State when it was in the MAC from 2002-04. They last met Nov. 13, 2004, when Ball State rallied for a 21-17 victory at home.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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