What a weekend it was for UCF. Not just the football team, but for the university as a whole. Obviously the student-athletes on the football team is what brought the national spotlight to Orlando, but as a whole Knights both on the gridiron and in the classroom united to show America just who UCF is.
The weekend started on Thursday when the College Gameday bus rolled into town. On Friday, the recording of College Football Live occurred, paired alongside some great activities such as a corn-hole tournament to win backstage passes to the event on Saturday. Despite getting bounced in the third round of the 64-team tournament, the atmosphere on Friday was a teaser for what was to come the following morning.
For me, the following morning actually began at 11:30 p.m. I went to bed at about 8 p.m. planning to get up at midnight and drive to campus to claim a spot to get into the College Gameday pit, hoping to be front and center behind the desk. However, I received a phone call at 10 p.m. saying that we needed to get to campus as soon as possible, saying the line was already growing. I ended up bringing my comforter and a pillow to camp out and catch a few Z’s before they let us in the pit. We got a spot in the pit but not the ones we wanted, but still it was an atmosphere unlike any other. Being surrounded by a rowdy crowd and all the signs was a memory I will have forever. Add Lee Corso dressed in a full Knightro costume to top off the entire experience and it is a moment that will live on in UCF history.
Most college football fans know that the UCF Twitter Mafia is united and strong on the internet, but it was incredible to see just how many people turned out in person to support their Knights and take shots at the fraudulent college football system that is in place. In fact, I heard it was a record number, somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 people showing up for the 9 a.m. show broadcasted around the nation.
While College Gameday was a top experience of my collegiate career, that was only the appetizer for what was yet to come. A very important game lay eight hours in the future at the conclusion of the show, leaving people scrambling to go back and shower, eat and get ready for tailgate in between.
Knight Nation did not disappoint at the game. There was a mob of students waiting at the stadium gates at 6:30 to get in. Within a half an hour, the student sections in both end zones were packed. The second highest attendance ever recorded at Spectrum Stadium brought the noise, forcing Cincinnati into two penalties before they could even run a play. That by far was the loudest I had ever heard Spectrum Stadium.
The rest is history, UCF took care of business, trouncing the Bearcats 38-13 on a national stage. Our defense that everyone said looked weak forced three turnovers and only allowed one touchdown which came in the fourth quarter. The other score was on a strip sack fumble in the end zone.
So let’s look at our checklist of what UCF wanted to accomplish on this incredible weekend. Have a record crowd at College Gameday? Check. Pack Spectrum Stadium and beat the Bearcats? Also check. The only box left was to earn national respect in the prime time spotlight. That box also got checked off, as one of UCF’s biggest haters a few weeks ago in Kirk Herbstreit finally came around on Saturday night and began to give UCF and their football program the respect they deserve.
It almost didn’t seem real. After the national audience was exposed to the incredible UCF brand, one final wish was granted to Knight Nation. A top 10 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. Checking in at number nine, UCF is the first team to crack the top 10 as a “G5” school. Herbstreit even made a case on the ranking reveal show that we could be ranked as high as seventh and that we should be above Oklahoma. This weekend was a wakeup call to the rest of the world that UCF is for real and is only the beginning of what can happen. There are rumors that athletic director Danny White is planning to expand the bounce house while additional plans for an athletic village with a lazy river titled “recovery cove” are now in full swing. The UCF athletic program has all the momentum in the world right now. Pair that with the national exposure they just received and the ceiling for what this program can become is exponentially high.