Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Media Guide in PDF Format
ORLANDO - UCF's historic season continues as the Golden Knights will make their first bowl appearance in school history at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl vs. Nevada December 24 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. The Golden Knights won Conference USA's East Division in 2005 with a league record of 7-1 and an overall mark of 8-4. After losing its first two games of the season, the resurgent Golden Knights won eight out of 10 games en route to their first bowl bid in Hawaii.
The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl will air live on ESPN. It marks UCF's third appearance on the network in 2005 and UCF's fifth appearance on national television in 2005.
In front of a school record crowd of 51,978, Tulsa defeated UCF 44-27 to win the inaugural Conference USA Championship game December 3 in Orlando at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
With an 8-3 overall record and a 7-1 Western Athletic Conference mark this year, Nevada tied Boise State for the conference title, its first in the WAC and 13th league championship in school history.
The UCF ISP Sports Network begins pregame coverage with a two-hour show prior to kickoff. The "Voice of the Golden Knights," Marc Daniels, will handle the play-by-play duties while Gary Parris provides color commentary and Jerry O'Neill patrols the sidelines. The radio broadcast is also available at ucfathletics.com.
Change in the Right Direction
UCF is currently tied for third among the most improved teams in NCAA history. The Golden Knights have improved 7.5 games from last season. UCF secured the best turnaround in Conference USA history after its 27-21 victory at UAB on Nov. 12.
UCF and Nevada will meet for the first time at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The Golden Knights have never played a team from the state of Nevada.
The trip to Hawaii will be the second in school history for the Golden Knights. UCF lost to Hawaii 45-14 on Oct. 21, 1995 at Aloha Stadium. Daunte Culpepper was UCF's quarterback as a true freshman on the 1995 club that lost to Hawaii.
UCF wide receivers coach D.J. McCarthy came to UCF after serving in the same capacity at Nevada from 2000-03.
Long Road Trip to Hawaii
UCF will log the most miles in going to a bowl game in 2005. The Golden Knights will travel 4,753 miles from Orlando to Honolulu for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Navy has the next greatest distance to travel from Annapolis, Md. to San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl. The Midshipmen will travel 2,738 miles to their bowl game.
UCF is just the sixth team in NCAA history to play in a bowl game after going winless the previous year.
Prior to UCF, South Carolina was the last team to go from a winless campaign to a bowl a year later. In 1999, the Gamecocks went 0-11 before going 8-4 in 2000 under head coach Lou Holtz.
A Remarkable Turnaround
George O'Leary has engineered the top turnaround in the nation. After going 0-11 in 2004, UCF is 8-4 in 2005, including a 7-1 regular season mark in C-USA. Even more remarkable, UCF has done it with a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores. The Golden Knights have just 10 seniors on scholarship and have 25 freshmen or sophomores who have started this season, including seven true freshmen starters. Another amazing fact is that UCF played seven of its 11 games in the regular season on the road.
O'Leary is no stranger to turning around the fortunes of a football program. Inheriting a team which posted a 1-10 record in 1994 at Georgia Tech, O'Leary directed the second-best turnaround in the nation in 1995 as the Yellow Jackets finished the season 6-5.
First in NCAA History
UCF is the first team in NCAA history to record a five-game winning streak a year after going winless. South Carolina (2000), Ball State (2000) and Hawaii (1999) are the only other schools to record a four-game winning streak a year after going winless.
UCF is just the fourth team in NCAA history to play seven away games in a season (11-game schedule) and participate in a bowl game.
Southern Miss was the last team to play seven games on the road and reach a bowl game in 2000. The Golden Eagles finished the season 8-4 and ended the year with a win over TCU in the GMAC Bowl.
The Golden Knights had seven games on the road in 2005 during the regular season. UCF hosted the Conference USA Championship game Dec. 3 at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
O'Leary Named C-USA Coach of the Year
After leading his squad to the Conference USA East Division title and a berth in the inaugural league championship game, UCF head coach George O'Leary was named the C-USA Coach of the Year, as selected by the league's head coaches and media members in each conference city.
The East Division title highlights a year that saw UCF become the first team in NCAA history to clinch a spot in a conference championship game after going winless the previous year.
It marked the third time in O'Leary's career he has been named a conference coach of the year. He was twice named ACC Coach of the Year during his tenure at Georgia Tech.
Smith C-USA Freshman of the Year
True freshman TB Kevin Smith was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year by the league's head coaches and media members. He is the first Golden Knight in school history to be named a conference freshman of the year in football.
He was named to the All-C-USA Second Team offense and was also an All-C-USA Freshman Team selection.
O'Leary Named National Coach of the Year by Two Prominent Web Sites
Two national web sites - CBSsportsline.com and SportsIllustrated.com - named UCF head coach George O'Leary college football's national coach of the year.
O'Leary has led UCF to one of the greatest turnarounds in NCAA history as the Golden Knights went from 0-11 a year ago to 8-4 and Conference USA East Division champions in 2005.
O'Leary was named the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year in 2000 while he was head coach at Georgia Tech. He is the first coach in UCF history to be named national coach of the year by any media outlet.
Winning the Close Games
UCF is 7-1 this season in games decided by 10 points or less. The Golden Knights are 3-0 in contests decided by three points or less.
Turnovers Key to Turnaround
In UCF's eight wins this season, the Golden Knights have forced 25 turnovers. In four losses, UCF has just four takeaways.
In the eight wins, UCF has outscored the opposition 132-69 in the first half, including a 75-17 advantage in the first quarter.
In the Golden Knights' four losses, UCF has been outscored 114-37 in the first half.
Kevin Smith has been one of the best true freshman running backs in the nation in 2005. The Miami native had three 100-yard games in C-USA action and is the league's fifth-leading rusher.
He ranks sixth in the NCAA in rushing yards for a true freshman with 976. Smith is also tied for fourth in 100-yard games for a true freshman with four.
Smith's 164 yards in the Memphis victory is the 16th-highest total by a true freshman in the nation this season in a single game.
Smith Second in UCF History
Kevin Smith is second in school history in single-season rushing yards by a true freshman. He needs just 24 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark.
Smith is also sixth in UCF single-season rushing history with his 976 yards.
Back-to-Back 100-Yard Games
Kevin Smith became the first UCF true freshman to record back-to-back 100-yard games since Gerod Davis did so in the final two games of the 1992 season.
Smith rushed for 110 yards at Louisiana-Lafayette before exploding for 164 yards in the win over Memphis.
The 164 yards were the sixth-highest amount by a true freshman in UCF history. He is the only true freshman to rush for 100 yards in a Division I-A game at UCF.
4th Down Success
UCF has been terrific in 2005 on 4th downs, both offensively and defensively. The Golden Knights have converted 14-of-21 4th down attempts in 2005 (66.7 %) offensively, while their defense has held the opposition to a 5-for-16 conversion rate on 4th down (31 %).
Going Back to Paradise
UCF head coach George O'Leary will make his second trip to Hawaii to coach in a bowl game. As defensive coordinator for Georgia Tech in 1991, O'Leary was part of a Tech team that defeated Stanford 18-17 in the Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day.
In all, O'Leary has coached in six bowl games during his coaching career. O'Leary is 2-1 as a head coach in bowl games.
O'Leary in Bowl Games as a Coach
Year School Bowl Game Result
1985 Syracuse Cherry Bowl Lost to Maryland, 35-18 *
1991 Georgia Tech Citrus Bowl Def. Nebraska, 45-21 *
1991 Georgia Tech Aloha Bowl Def. Stanford, 18-17 *
1997 Georgia Tech Carquest Bowl Def. West Virginia, 35-30
1999 Georgia Tech Gator Bowl Def. Notre Dame, 35-28
2000 Georgia Tech Gator Bowl Lost to Miami, 28-13
2001 Georgia Tech Seattle Bowl Def. Stanford, 24-14 &
* Assistant Coach
& Coached Georgia Tech for its first 12 games of the 2001 season, but did not coach the Yellow Jackets in the Seattle Bowl.
Largest Crowd in UCF History
The largest crowd in UCF history was on hand for the inaugural Conference USA Football Championship game Dec. 3 vs. Tulsa. A crowd of 51,978 came out to watch the title game.
Earlier in the year, the seventh-largest crowd in school history came to see UCF's 31-29 victory over Houston Nov. 5 on Homecoming.
No Ordinary Joe
True freshman CB Joe Burnett has been quite a playmaker on UCF's defense and special teams. The Eustis native leads Conference USA in punt returns (16.5) and is second in interceptions per game (0.42). He ranks sixth nationally in punt returns and 21st in interceptions per game.
He was named All-C-USA First Team both on defense at cornerback and on special teams as the punt returner.
Burnett recorded his first two career interceptions in the Tulane victory. It marked the first time since 1997 that a true freshman tallied an interception for UCF (Damian Demps vs. NE Louisiana on Nov. 1, 1997).
Burnett's two interceptions came in the fourth quarter vs. the Green Wave, including a pick in the end zone to secure the victory.
Burnett is also tied for second in UCF single-season history with five interceptions. The five interceptions are the most by a single player in UCF's Division I-A history.
Burnett Sets New Punt Return Record
Joe Burnett broke a 14-year record at UCF for single-season punt return yardage in the win over Tulsa. Burnett moved into sole possession of first place in the UCF annals for single-season punt return yardage with 463 yards.
Burnett also ranks first in UCF single-season history in average per punt return (16.5).
He Could Go All the Way ...
Joe Burnett became just the third player in UCF history to record two punt returns for a touchdown in the same year after his 68-yard punt return touchdown vs. Tulsa on Dec. 3. Burnett also recorded a 58-yard punt return for a score in UCF's final game of the regular season at Rice on Nov. 19.
He is the only player in Conference USA in 2005 to return a punt for a touchdown.
First Time is a Charm
Redshirt freshman WR Willie Thornton will always remember the first touchdown catch of his career. Thornton caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Steven Moffett on UCF's opening drive of the Conference USA Championship game vs. Tulsa.
The reception was Thornton's fifth of the season.
In the Month of December
UCF has played just one game in the month of December since joining Division I-A in 1996. The lone December game was Dec. 3, 2005 vs. Tulsa in the Conference USA Football Championship game.
All-time, UCF is 1-3 in the month of December.
The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 will be the latest in a year that UCF has played a game. The old mark was Dec. 8, 1990 in the NCAA I-AA playoffs vs. Georgia Southern.
The Nevada Wolf Pack bring an overall record of 8-3, including a 7-1 mark in the Western Athletic Conference into the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Nevada was the co-champion of the WAC after its 38-35 victory over Fresno State in its regular season finale in Reno.
It will be Nevada's first bowl appearance since the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl. This will be Nevada's sixth bowl game and the Pack has a 2-3 mark in bowl games.
Nevada tied Boise State for the conference title, their first in the WAC and 13th league championship in school history.
Nevada brings one of the nation's most explosive offenses to Hawaii. The Pack are ranked 23rd nationally in total offense (433.5 ypg) and 24th in scoring offense (32.8 ppg). Nevada owns one of the NCAA's most balanced offenses, ranking 29th in passing offense (249.5 ypg) and 32nd in rushing offense (184.1 ypg).
Senior TB B.J. Mitchell ranks 16th nationally and first in the WAC in rushing (111.0 ypg). Junior QB Jeff Rowe is second in the WAC in total offense (259.1 ypg) and third in the WAC in passing efficiency (137.64).
Head coach Chris Ault is in his 21st season at Nevada and is in his third tour of duty at his alma mater.
Ault entered the season with the fourth-highest winning percentage (.705) among active Division I-A coaches.
In 21 years as head coach, he has amassed a 176-73-1 ledger, won eight conference championships and gone on to postseason play eight times.