UCF Wins The Gasparilla Bowl

UCF Wins the Gasparilla Bowl
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UCF Wins The Gasparilla Bowl

Despite the wind, rain, and low attendance, UCF beat Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl. From the start, it seemed Marshall’s hopes at retaining its undefeated bowl record under Doc Holliday were doomed. As we predicted in our preview, UCF proved too much on all sides of the ball. As a result, the Knights emerged as Gasparilla Bowl victors by a final score of 48-25.

UCF Starts Strong

UCF used a strong first quarter to keep Marshall at a distance early. Indeed, UCF struck within a minute, as Richie Grant nabbed a pick-six from Isaiah Green. On Green’s next pass, Armani Levias fumbled, surrendering the ball right back to the Knights. But the Thundering Herd’s defense was not surrendering just yet. They forced a punt and bailed the offense out early.

On their next drive, however, Marshall found no room against UCF’s pressure, going three-and-out and finding only one yard in the process. UCF’s efficient offense went to work, and Greg McCrae found the end zone after scampering for 26 yards. Perhaps surprisingly (though maybe not, considering the weather conditions), Dillon Gabriel threw only one pass on the scoring drive. Things certainly didn’t look well for Marshall.

Unfortunately, things got worse, as Marshall coughed up another fumble. This time, Tre’Mon Morris-Brash returned it for six. And just like that, UCF went up 21-0 with seven minutes left in the first. Then, the Thundering Herd marched methodically down the field, threatening to strike at the end of the quarter.

Marshall’s Defense Stiffens

But Marshall opened the second quarter much like the first. Brenden Knox fumbled inside the red zone. Just like that, the opportunistic Knights snuffed out the threat. But Marshall wasn’t interested in going down without a fight, as Micah Abraham returned an interception for a touchdown on the following drive. Marshall closed the gap 21-7 with under 13 minutes to go in the half.

For most of the rest of the quarter, Marshall’s defense did everything it could to keep pace with the Knights. Over the next three drives, the Thundering Herd held UCF to just 30 yards. But Marshall’s offense couldn’t capitalize, allowing itself to be held to just six yards during that time. Finally, UCF broke through with a sustained drive and ended the half with a field goal giving them a 24-7 lead.

Flood Gates Open In The Third

Both teams made up for the offensive ineptitude of the first half. The teams traded punches in the third quarter. UCF opened the half with a 75-yard drive, capped off by a 35-yard pass from Gabriel to Otis Anderson. The Thundering Herd returned serve, and Green finally got his offense into the end zone with a 3-yard run. UCF, however, struck again on the very next drive, pushing the lead back to 24.

Marshall closed the gap with a quick strike as Green passed to Willie Johnson for a 70-yard touchdown. After converting for two, Marshall came within 16. But that’s as close as Marshall would come. UCF struck on the very next play with their own 75-yard touchdown reception by Marlon Williams. Marshall managed a field goal on the next drive, but, in the exchange, they fell behind 45-25.

UCF Closes Out To Win Gasparilla Bowl

Over the final quarter, the only score was another UCF field goal. Otherwise, both offenses were quiet. After six straight scoring drives throughout the third, the teams collectively added only 3 points on five possessions in the fourth.

UCF controlled the game with its big-play defense and its multi-headed rushing attack.  As usual, four different Knights backs ran for over 50 yards, and each averaged over five-and-a-half yards per carry. Gabriel added 260 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Despite long scoring droughts, UCF managed 48 total points, and outpaced the Thundering Herd from the opening drive. Like that, UCF wins the Gasparilla Bowl. In the process, the Knights earned their third ten-win season in as many years.