ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – UCF had a rollercoaster season in 2018. With losing star quarterback Mckenzie Milton to a scary injury and losing in the Fiesta Bowl to LSU, the Knights yearn to bounce back and redeem themselves this year.
With losing backup quarterback Darell Mack Jr. to a season-ending injury, UCF Knights began their season with a quarterback competition between Notre Dame graduate transfer Brandon Wimbush, redshirt freshman Quadry Jones, and incoming freshman Dillion Gabriel. The competition ended with Coach Josh Heupel naming Dillion Gabriel to start.
In the past three games, UCF blew out Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, and Stanford; and they were getting national recognition. Different analysts, including Joey Galloway, Jonathan Vilma, and others, have claimed that they don’t see the Knights making it to the College Football Playoff this year. So with a chip on their shoulders, UCF headed into this game against Pittsburgh Panthers with both momentum and a “mamba mentality.”
The Pittsburgh Panthers destroyed UCF on both sides of the ball in the first half. Running back A.J. Davis scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown on the goal line which gave his team the lead with a 7-0 score. UCF’s quarterback Dillion Gabriel struggled to move the offense and threw an interception to Pitt linebacker Phill Campbell, which gave the Panthers an extra boost. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett then threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Maurice French leading the score of 14-0.
UCF seemed determined to not give up, and running back Adrian Killins gave the team some life by rushing for a touchdown, shrinking Pitt’s lead by seven points.
In the second half, UCF came out strong and more focused as running back Otis Anderson made an incredible play by scoring on a huge punt return. Dillion Gabriel emerged resurgent, throwing two touchdown passes to wide receiver Gabe Davis, giving UCF the lead with a 31-21 score.
The Panthers, who weren’t going to let the Knights win in their home stadium, came back with a passing touchdown of their own with backup quarterback Nick Patti, cutting the lead by three points.
The fourth quarter became a “David and Goliath” battle between the teams. With Dillion Gabriel being nervous and Pitt kicker Alex Kissman missing a chance to tie the score, this game was up for grabs.
Gabriel came up huge by throwing a “dime” pass to receiver Tre Nixon for a huge first down. On 4th and 2, UCF decided to run the ball, but was quickly met by Pitt’s D-line.
Late in the fourth, Pitt’s offense failed to capitalize on a good possession that would’ve put them ahead of UCF.
On UCF’s turn, Gabriel threw a pass again to Tre Nixon on a 3rd and short, which converted into a huge first down. After reviewing the play, the refs came up with the solution that the receiver has been stopped short of the first down. By way of a field goal, UCF increased the lead with a score of 34-28.
The Panthers retaliated with a play now called the “Pitt Special” that not only gave them the lead, but also caused them to win the game.
UCF’s defeat caused a major shockwave throughout college football.
What can UCF do to bounce back? UCF has to be more focused and more aggressive on the offensive side. Gabriel needs to be more comfortable in the pocket, trust his receivers, and make smart decisions.
On the other hand, the defense needs to maintain its aggression. Both the corners and safeties must make some plays and create an immediate impact.
Like the old saying goes, “never underestimate.”
Jonathan Anderson is a Florida National News sports contributor. | firstname.lastname@example.org
ESPN Events and the Orlando Sports Foundation Announce Title Sponsor of 2022 Cure Bowl
ORLANDO, Fla. – Duluth Trading Company will be the title sponsor of the 2022 Cure Bowl, ESPN Events and the Orlando Sports Foundation announced today. The 2022 Duluth Trading Cure Bowl will be played at 3 p.m. ET on Friday, December 16 at Exploria Stadium – home of Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC – and will be televised nationally on ESPN.
The Duluth Trading Cure Bowl matchup will be announced on Sunday, Dec. 4 with participating teams from the American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt Conference, Conference USA or Mid-American Conference.
“We are honored to have such a strong national brand like Duluth Trading Company join as title sponsor of the 2022 Cure Bowl, as the bowl continues its mission of bringing teams together to find a cure for cancer,” said Cure Bowl Executive Director and Orlando Sports Foundation CEO Alan Gooch.
“Duluth Trading Co. is proud to support the fight against cancer as the title sponsor of the Cure Bowl,” said Neala Shepherd, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience. “At Duluth Trading, we acknowledge the impact that cancer has had on the lives of our customers, employees and communities. Regardless of who you are cheering for, the one thing that unites all college football fans is the hope for a world without cancer.”
The Duluth Trading Cure Bowl is one of 17 college football bowl games owned and operated by ESPN Events.
UCF’s Football Venue, the Bounce House, Gets a New Name
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Source: UCF // The UCF Athletic Association and FBC Mortgage, LLC, have combined on a naming rights agreement for the Knights’ home football stadium that takes effect beginning with the upcoming 2022 season and will brand the UCF football venue as FBC Mortgage Stadium.
The 10-year, $19.5 million deal means UCF football teams will play their home games in FBC Mortgage Stadium through the 2031 football season. The new arrangement begins July 1–following its approval today by the UCF Board of Trustees.
“It’s an exciting day for UCF Athletics and for FBC Mortgage to be able to collaborate on the naming of our football stadium,” says Terry Mohajir, UCF vice president and director of athletics.
“Sellouts have become the norm at UCF. Our game day experience has been widely recognized–and I believe it is second to no one. Knight Nation has established the atmosphere at FBC Mortgage Stadium as one of the best in the country.
“We are building the future of college football here at UCF. This represents the next step for us as we reimagine our football campus—and we’re excited to have FBC Mortgage join us on our journey.”
“FBC was founded in 2005 in downtown Orlando, and we are very proud to partner with our hometown university, UCF,” says Rob Nunziata, FBC Mortgage co-CEO. “We would like to thank the UCF athletic department, especially athletics director Terry Mohajir and assistant athletics director Malik Thomas who worked very hard to make this sponsorship a reality…Go Knights!!”
“With many of our employees having attended UCF, this was a natural fit for FBC Mortgage–and it also helps us achieve our national growth expansion with a great partner in UCF,” says Joe Nunziata, FBC Mortgage co-CEO.
The first UCF football game to be played at FBC Mortgage Stadium will be the Knights’ 2022 season opener Thursday, Sept. 1, against South Carolina State (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+).
“On behalf of our football program, I would like to express our appreciation for the support of FBC Mortgage,” says UCF football coach Gus Malzahn whose first Knight team in 2021 finished 7-0 at home.
“This provides a legitimate boost to us when it comes to creating a great homefield advantage. We take tremendous pride in the environment at our home football games–and this only adds more luster to that.”
The crown jewel in UCF’s impressive athletics complex, the Knights’ football venue–first known as Bright House Networks Stadium–opened in 2007 and became Spectrum Stadium in 2017. The on-campus facility provides UCF one of the top venues anywhere in the Southeast. After spending the previous 28 seasons at the Florida Citrus Bowl (now known as Camping World Stadium) in downtown Orlando, the Knights made their debut in the new on-campus facility on Sept. 15, 2007, facing Texas. A capacity crowd was on hand for the game, which was televised live nationally on ESPN2. Two seasons later when UCF played host to Miami on Oct. 17, 2009, a facility-record 48,453 fans were on hand for the contest.
It has played host to conference championship games (Conference USA or American Athletic Conference) after the 2007, 2010, 2017 and 2018 regular seasons. Located on the north side of campus, the stadium features luxury boxes, a large club lounge and a natural grass playing surface.
UCF’s gameday football facility has added an impressive series of enhancements over the last seven years:
–2015: The stadium enjoyed its first major renovation with the addition of the Carl Black and Gold Cabana. This east-side premium area quickly became one of the signature UCF game-day experiences. The Cabana is a 10,000-square-foot, Florida-themed social area and lounge located between the 30-yard lines.
–2016: The video board was upgraded to a 114-by-36-foot LED display. It features a Daktronics 15MM HD pixel layout for excellent image clarity. The display also has variable content zoning, allowing it to show one large image or be divided into multiple windows to show any variety of live video, instant replays, statistics, scoring, graphics, animations and sponsorship messages.
–2017: The Carl Black and Gold Cabana was expanded via 2,921 additional chair-back seats and an open-air sun deck. Eight field-level cabanas also were added at the south end zone with access to the enclosed air-conditioned J and J Rosengren Lounge. The concourse between sections 108-113 was converted into the Stadium Club. That 3,344-seat premium area on the west side of the stadium provides access to dedicated food and drink options, as well as other amenities. In addition, a ribbon display in the south end zone was unveiled, with that display measuring more than seven feet high by 199 feet wide.
–2018: Field-level cabanas were added at the north end as well as south loge cabanas.
–2019: North loge cabanas debuted, and an additional 1,000 premium chair-back seats were added on the east side of the stadium, increasing the capacity of the Carl Black and Gold Cabana for a second time.
UCF and Icon Source Collaborate to Bring NIL Marketplace Services to Campus
ORLANDO, Fla. – UCF Athletics announced Tuesday a collaboration with Icon Source, the premier name, image, and likeness marketplace in the U.S., to bring its unparalleled NIL expertise and new local exchange marketplace to UCF Athletics and student-athletes from all sports.
A new product from Icon Source, Icon Suite, will power a UCF-branded local exchange that will be available to all UCF student-athletes. The innovative tool simplifies connecting interested brands with student-athletes for NIL deals and the administrative processes around deal disclosure and compliance for UCF Athletics.
Icon Suite makes it easier than ever for local companies and Knight supporters to readily identify and access student-athletes for potential endorsement and sponsorship deals through a custom UCF marketplace. Through UCF’s Icon Suite software, Icon Source can also service local businesses and alumni by providing guidance, education, and facilitation of the student-athlete sponsorship process.
“Our student-athletes will have the best opportunities to benefit from their name, image, and likeness thanks to this first-of-its-kind venture,” said UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir. “We’re setting the standard by bringing the marketplace to our student-athletes.”
As part of the collaboration, an Icon Source representative will be housed on UCF’s campus as an on-site resource for student-athletes. This is a new NIL service for UCF student-athletes, going along with the free legal and entrepreneurship services already provided to students on-campus.
Florida’s NIL law prohibits colleges and universities from compensating current and prospective student-athletes for NIL deals. UCF’s collaboration with Icon Source simplifies the process for student-athletes and corporate sponsors. These services are provided at cost to the athletes and with no compensation to the university.
“By bringing the marketplace to our campus, it gives our student-athletes the greatest advantage to prosper in this new era of NIL,” Mohajir said. “Icon Source is one of the leaders in this space and having them right here on our campus will give our student-athletes and associated brands optimal opportunities to benefit!”
Founded in 2018 by UCF alumnus and current chief executive officer Chase Garrett, Icon Source has been a trusted tool for professional athletes across all sports and their agents to connect with a broad group of brands and facilitate seamless endorsement deals and partnerships. In 2021, Icon Source expanded that work into the NCAA realm, working tirelessly to empower and protect student-athletes as they maximize their NIL potential.
Numerous national to hyper-local brands have directly connected with and endorsed student-athletes through Icon Source’s compliant marketplace and executed contracts using the marketplace’s wizard, which handles all the administrative aspects of name, image, and likeness dealmaking.