It may not be where UCF has become accustomed to playing this time of the year, but the Knights are ending their 2019 season with 10 wins and a bowl victory. UCF (10-3, 6-2 AAC) finished off their season on a winning note by topping Marshall (8-5, 6-2 Conference USA)in the highest-scoring Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl Monday afternoon, 48-25.
Marshall imploded early in the game with five turnovers on each of their first five offensive possessions. Isaiah Green had a third-down pass intercepted on the third play of the game and Richie Grant returned the football 39 yards for a defensive touchdown to give UCF an early lead. Green connected on a 45-yard pass to Armani Levias on the first play of the ensuing possession but Levias fumbled the football at the end of the play. After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, Marshall turned the football over again and the Knights defense struck again with Tre’Mon Morris-Brash returning a fumble 45 yards for a score.
UCF built a 31-7 lead in the third quarter before Marshall began to get the ball moving and a better grip on the football. But by then, the damage had essentially been done.
Dillon Gabriel passed for 260 yards and two touchdowns for UCF before getting some rest at the end of the game. Marlon Williams had a big day with seven receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown in the winning effort. As a team, UCF rushed for 310 yards and out-gained Marshall 587-351. The game was also a bit testy in the second half as Big Ten officials did their best to keep control before things devolved into something ugly. Marshall’s Darrius Hodge was ejected from the game late in the third quarter after coming off the bench to get involved in some verbal jabbing at the end of a play. It was his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game, which results in an automatic ejection. Making his ejection unique was the fact Marshall was on offense at the time. The two teams combined for 18 penalties and 167 penalty yards with a handful of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties distributed to players on both teams.
The 73 combined points scored in the game are the most in a Gasparilla Bowl. The previous record point total was 69 scored by Rutgers and UCF in 2009 (Rutgers won 45-24) when the game was called the St. Petersburg Bowl. It was the second year of the bowl game’s existence.
With the win, UCF head coach Josh Heupel has won his first bowl game as a head coach. UCF also has won 10 or more games for a third consecutive season for the first time in program history. UCF could be lining up a possible spot in the final top 25 rankings, which would also be the third consecutive season for the first time in program history.
UCF’s 2020 season will begin at home next year with a home game against Mack Brown and UNC. The 2020 season opener is currently scheduled for a Thursday night kickoff on Sept. 3, 2020. UCF will also face Georgia Tech in Atlanta for a second game against a power conference opponent. The Knights also host FIU and Florida A&M in non-conference play. UCF will get some key division and conference games at home with home dates against Cincinnati and Temple, but a road trip to Memphis also looms.
Marshall’s 2020 season is currently scheduled to begin on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020 at East Carolina. The Thundering Herd will host Pittsburgh and Boise State and travel to Ohio in other non-conference matchups before jumping into the Conference USA schedule.