GREATEST MOMENTS | UCF made its point(s) in 2014 Fiesta Bowl stunner


UCF-greatest-momentAn original member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in 1985, Michelle Akers might the greatest athlete in UCF history.

Michelle AkersThe all-time leading scorer in school history was a four-time All-American, led UCF to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including the 1987 Final Four, and was the first women’s Hermann Trophy winner in 1988.

Akers starred for the U.S. on Women’s World Cup championship teams in 1991 and 1999, and the gold-medal winners in the 1996 Summer Olympics. In 2004, Pelé included her and Mia Hamm as the only women on his list of the 100 greatest living soccer players.

But the sports moment judged the greatest in UCF history came on a different field of football.

On Jan. 1, 2014, the Knights established themselves and the upstart American Athletic Conference — formerly the Big East — with a stunning 52-42 victory against Big 12 champion Baylor.

The Bears set NCAA record for points in a 13-game season (681) after leading the NCAA in total offense (624.5 yards per game) and scoring (53.3 points per game) during the regular season.

But UCF, a 17-point underdog, never trailed.

The Knights took a 14-0 lead and kept rolling, piling up 556 total yards in the second-highest-scoring BCS bowl ever. The teams combined 94 for points and 1,106 total yards while running 160 offensive plays.

Baylor tied the game at 28 in the third quarter, but Blake Bortles hit Breshad Perriman on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter and scored on a 15-yard run with 13:37 remaining to put the Knights ahead 42-28.

Bortles passed for 301 yards and three touchdowns, and Storm Johnson rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns. Baylor was penalized 17 times for 135 yards and quarterback Bryce Petty was intercepted in the end zone. It was only his third interception of the season.

“It’s a great win, a great feeling for everyone who’s been through the program,” UCF’s George O’Leary said.

The head coach, fired by Notre Dame five days after being hired for lying on his résumé, rebuilt his reputation with UCF, taking a program that went winless in 2004 to the inaugural AAC title and automatic BCS berth.

“There’s not many outside of us who believe we had a chance,” Bortles said, “but we did and I think we showed what UCF football is all about.”

A program that produced Heisman Trophy candidates Daunte Culpepper (QB) in 1998 and Kevin Smith (RB) in 2007, added another milestone when Bortles was selected No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.

• UCF Sports Hall of Fame

Above: Coach George O’Leary celebrated his tenth season with UCF’s first 11-win regular season, first perfect conference record, first win against a Big Ten opponent, first win against a Top–10 team, third conference title (2007, 2010, 2013) and the program’s first appearance and win in a BCS bowl. (Courtesy Pegasus magazine)

• Monday: Campbell
• Tuesday: Central Arkansas and Central Florida
• Wednesday: Central Michigan and College of Charleston
• Thursday: Charleston Southern and Charlotte
• Friday: Chattanooga and Chicago State

Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.