TAMPA — College football’s rapidly evolving landscape has created another regional casualty.
For now, the “War on I-4″ is taking an extended rest stop.
UCF’s move to the Big 12 next summer means the Knights and USF (still in the American Athletic Conference) are no longer league opponents and won’t play each other annually. While they could — and probably will — play as non-conference rivals at some point, any such contest will require some schedule maneuvering; USF’s non-conference slate is locked up through 2027.
As a result, indefinite bragging rights will be on the line when the teams clash for the 14th time Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
With the feud set for a hiatus, this seems an opportune moment to reflect on a series that has given us some doozies during its brief existence. Here are what we deem the five greatest Knights-Bulls encounters (Spoiler alert: No. 1 is non-debatable).
5. UCF 23, USF 20
Nov. 29, 2013
Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando
After a five-year hiatus, the renewal of this rivalry shaped up as a rout. The Bulls, 2-8 under new coach Willie Taggart, entered as 27-point underdogs to the No. 17 Knights (9-1). But five UCF turnovers provided an equalizer on this surreal evening. USF freshman quarterback Mike White directed a 77-yard touchdown drive to give the Bulls a 20-16 lead early in the fourth quarter, and classmate Nate Godwin had an interception with 6:42 to play, but the Bulls couldn’t close.
With less than five minutes remaining, Blake Bortles’ pump-fake allowed Knights receiver (and current Buccaneer) Breshad Perriman to get behind the green USF secondary and haul in the game-winning 52-yard touchdown pass. (Sidebar: Bulls athletic director Doug Woolard had his tires slashed during the contest.)
4. UCF 17, USF 13
Nov. 26, 2021
Bounce House, Orlando
The abysmal Jeff Scott era at USF will be remembered for games like this: a potential “breakthrough win” that didn’t quite materialize. With 2:43 to play and his team down by four, freshman left-hander Timmy McClain directed an 11-play drive (assisted by three Knights offside penalties), highlighted by his 30-yard strike to Jaren Mangham on third and 13, and his 14-yard run on third and 10 to the UCF 3.
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Alas, the rally ended there. With 12 seconds to play and no timeouts, McClain was tripped up while scrambling left, and officials ruled his knee touched the turf before he made a desperation heave that was intercepted. Ball game.
3. USF 24, UCF 17
Sept. 16, 2006
Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando
After a 17-point Bulls romp in the rivalry’s inaugural game the previous year, the Knights put up a far greater fight in this clash. With barely three minutes to play, Bulls freshman Matt Grothe (375 total yards) capped a 90-yard drive with a 27-yard scoring pass to Ean Randolph on third and 14. UCF responded with a 65-yard drive of its own — converting twice on third down and once on fourth and 10 — before Chris Robinson’s strip sack of UCF quarterback Steven Moffett on fourth and 6 inside the red zone.
2. USF 31, UCF 24 (OT)
Sept. 6, 2008
Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando
The Bulls, then uppity Big East members who saw no benefit in facing a (presumably) lower-tier foe, put the kibosh on this budding series after this game. Truth be told, USF probably wanted nothing to do with the Knights following this clash. Up by 14, USF allowed two touchdowns in the final three minutes of regulation, then watched Delbert Alvarado miss a 42-yard field goal with 11 seconds to play.
Matt Grothe found Taurus Johnson for a 25-yard touchdown on third down to start the overtime session before the Bulls tandem of Brouce Mompremier and Tyron McKenzie stopped UCF quarterback Michael Greco on fourth and 6 to end the game. The teams wouldn’t play again for a half-decade.
1. UCF 49, USF 42
Nov. 24, 2017
Spectrum Stadium, Orlando
This Black Friday blockbuster not only stands as the greatest game in this rivalry, but one of the greatest in state college football lore. It started with burly Bulls receiver Tyre McCants dragging a Knights defender into the end zone, and ended with UCF speedster Mike Hughes dragging the psyche of Bulls fans 95 yards to numbness.
In between, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton and Bulls counterpart Quinton Flowers combined for 1,034 yards and 11 touchdowns. Don’t hold your breath waiting for this one to be topped.
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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