The group of 20 seniors on UCF's roster for Friday night's Beef `O' Brady's Bowl came into the game tied for most victories by a senior class. But this group of Knight seniors wasn't about to share that honor.
When a group sets a record for wins, there are predictably going to be players who make a major impact as individuals as well. This senior class was no exception.
Captain, and C-USA leading rusher, Latavius Murray scored three of UCF's five touchdowns in the bowl victory. He rushed for 1,106 yards this year, the seventh-best single-season total in UCF history. Murray wrapped up his career ranking sixth in career rushing yards at UCF with 2,424. He finished with 37 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks second all-time in Knights history. His 15 rushing touchdowns this season ranks No. 2 in the UCF record books.
"As seniors, we wanted to go out with a win and end this bowl game off right. It was a lot of fun," Murray said. "It means a lot to go out the way I did and have the success we did this season. I'm happy. My teammates played a big role, too."
Hard-hitting captain Kemal Ishmael was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and was a two-time First-Team All-C-USA choice during his career. In the victory over Ball State, he recorded seven tackles, forced a key fumble and broke up two passes. Ishmael led this year's squad in career starts and consecutive starts. Including tonight's game, he took part in every game during his UCF career, including starts in the final 49. He finished his career with 367 total tackles to rank No. 3 all-time in UCF history.
Wide receiver and electrifying kick returner Quincy McDuffie earned Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year honors, while also being named a First Team All-American by Sports Illustrated. He is such a dangerous kick returner that Ball State refused to kick to him Friday night. McDuffie returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season and led the nation with an average of 34.2 yards per return entering bowl season. McDuffie finished his career with six kickoffs returned for scores. As a wide receiver, he caught seven touchdown passes and rushed for four in his UCF career.
By Andy Seeley
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Finish. The UCF football team did just that with an exclamation point Friday night in the 2012 Beef `O' Brady's Bowl. The Knights earned their second bowl victory in program history with a 38-17 victory over Ball State.
Led by the all-time winningest senior class in school history, UCF clinched its 10th victory of the eason behind an impressive effort by the duo of redshirt senior running back Latavius Murray and redshirt sophomore signal-caller Blake Bortles. Bortles capped his first full season in style, earning MVP honors while finishing 22-of-33 for 271 yards and three passing touchdowns. He also led the team with a career-high 80 yards on the ground and another score.
"I want to congratulate the seniors. I thought they had a whale of a four-year career," said head coach George O'Leary. "They had the most wins in the school history of a senior class and they are all going to be successful. Whether that is playing on Sundays - a couple have an opportunity that way - or not, they are all going to be successful people."
Murray was just as impressive, cashing in for three touchdowns (all in the first half) and 104 total yards, with 71 on the ground and 33 through the air on a team-high six catches.
"We had a lot of fun this week. Being a senior, I definitely wanted to go out with a win," said Murray, who reached 44 total touchdowns for his career. "I wanted to go out with a win to end this bowl game off right, so it was a lot of fun."
Bortles added: "Our main goal was to get a 10-win season and send these seniors out on a good note. But it also gives us a big boost going into the offseason. The offensive line did a great job tonight. There was zero penetration going on, and I had time to sit back there and the wide receivers made some great plays. We executed our game plan like we wanted to."
The defense also did its part in the drubbing of the Cardinals. Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Kemal Ishmael finished his career with 367 tackles after recording seven in the contest. He also forced his sixth career fumble and two pass breakups. Fellow senior defensive end Troy Davis also went out in style with 1.5 sacks to crack the UCF top 10 with 18-career QB take downs.
After winning the toss and receiving the ball to start the game, UCF matriculated down the field, mixing the run and pass well on a 13-play, 78-yard drive that was capped off by a Bortles-to-Murray touchdown connection. The drive ate 7:33 off the clock and was aided by the sophomore QB's ability to evade the pass rush, while also connecting with rookie WR Breshad Perriman three times for 21 yards and a pair of first downs.
With the defense forcing a quick three-and-out, UCF's offense continued its impressive start with a seven-play 58-yard drive that saw Murray reach paydirt on a short 2-yard burst. The Knights closed out the first quarter outgaining the Cardinals, 160-15. UCF owned a 12:50-to-2:10 advantage in time of possession after the first period.
Ball State would settle in, however, with an 82-yard drive for seven points that saw Keith Wenning hit Willie Snead from seven-yards out to make it a 13-7 contest in the second quarter.
UCF responded with Bortles completely taking over on the ensuing drive. The Oviedo native became a dual threat on the drive, rushing three times for 32 yards, including a 6-yard scramble up the middle that saw him bulldoze a pair of Cardinal defenders on his way to the end zone. He capped the scoring drive with UCF's first two-point conversion since Sept. 5, 2009, hitting senior H-back Dontravius Floyd in the back of the end zone.
Ball State drove right back into UCF territory, reaching the Knights' 10-yard line prior to freshman DL Thomas Niles sacking Wenning for an 11-yard loss. The third-down tackle for loss resulted in a much longer field-goal attempt, which sailed well left of the uprights.
Starting on its own 32-yard line with just 55 seconds left in the half, Bortles hit junior Jeff Godfrey and Murray for 12 and 10 yards before launching a 45-yard beauty to a streaking Perriman, who finished with a career-best 90 yards on five catches, on the far side line. The career-long reception led to Bortles hitting Murray for the second time in the half, this time from five yards out with just five ticks left on the first-half clock.
After a 45-yard field goal by Schott to make it 28-10 with 7:54 left in the third quarter, the Cardinals attempted an onside kick that redshirt sophomore running back Cedric Thompson grabbed out of the air safely to set up the Knights at the BSU 49-yard line.
Bortles continued to shred the Ball State defense with the prime field position. He racked up 41 of the next 49 yards through the air, tying his career record and a Beef `O' Brady's Bowl mark with touchdown pass No. 3 from seven yards out to fellow sophomore J.J. Worton.
Sophomore Shawn Moffitt would cap the Knights' scoring on the year with a 25-yard field goal to make it 38-10. The Cardinals tacked on a late touchdown to account for the final tally of 38-17. On the season, UCF finished with 496 total points, second all-time in program history.