FINAL: UCF Knights upset Florida Gators 29-17 in Gasparilla Bowl

Gator Sports

TAMPA — The UCF Knights stunned the Florida Gators on Thursday night in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.

UCF’s Ryan O'Keefe ran for 110 yards and caught 7 balls for 85 yards and a touchdown to help lead the Knights (9-4) to their first win over the Gators (6-7) in three tries. Isaiah Bowser led the Knights with 35 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns.

Florida quarterback Emory Jones completed 14 of 36 for 171 yards, and missed several deep throws that could have led to easy touchdowns. Jones finished with 10 carries for 62 yards on the ground. Jones will now enter the transfer portal.

Florida running backs Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce combined for 143 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, but the Gators couldn’t muster any offense when they needed to most.

The Florida Gators will now officially turn things over to new head coach Billy Napier as he continues to build his staff in Gainesville.

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Grading the Gators:Florida gets a 3-D finish in the gradebook following loss to Central Florida

11:02 p.m. | Gasparilla Bowl - Fourth Quarter

What went right: Emory Jones completed a pair of passes longer than 20 yards on the Gators’ first drive of the fourth quarter, but it didn’t result in anything on the scoreboard.

What went wrong: Howard missed his second field goal, which would have cut the UCF lead to 26-20. Instead, UCF took its time driving the length of the field before adding another field goal with under three minutes to play, essentially sealing the victory for the Knights. Florida’s concerns quickly turned to the health of wide receiver Justin Shorter, who had to be carted off after taking a dangerous hit on an errant pass. 

Play of the quarter: Isaiah Bowser’s 24-yard rush ensured there would be no Florida comeback.

— Graham Hall

10:29 p.m. | UCF extends lead over Florida

Knights kicker Daniel Obarski connects on a 33-yard field goal with 2:41 left in the game. UCF now leads 29-17

10:13 p.m. | UCF on verge of knocking off Florida

Knights still up 26-17 as Florida kicker Chris Howard misses a crucial 45-yard field goal with 7:57 left in the fourth.

10:03 p.m. | Gasparilla Bowl - Third Quarter

What went right: Malik Davis’ 19-yard rush reinstated Florida’s one-point lead, though it didn’t last long. From there, not much went well for the Gators. 

What went wrong: Florida’s rush defense continued to be gashed as Ryan O’Keefe dashed 74 yards on UCF’s second drive of the third quarter to set up Isaiah Bowser’s 4-yard rushing touchdown one play later. UCF scored again with just over three minutes on the clock when Daniel Obarski knocked home a 21-yard field goal to put the Knights up 19-17. On the next drive, Jacob Copeland was whistled for offensive pass interference on third down, and UF had to punt it away instead. Mikey Keene hauled in a 54-yard touchdown on the very next play to push the lead to 26-17. 

Play of the quarter: Keene’s score made it a two-possession game just prior to the final 15 minutes of play — a potentially decisive touchdown. 

Trending: Down nine, Florida turns to its defense to get a stop as a loss appears more and more likely. 

— Graham Hall

9:52 p.m. | Knights strike again against Florida

After the Gators miss what would have been a long touchdown pass on third down, UCF's Mikey Keene gets the ball back and hits Ryan O'Keefe for a 54-yard score. The Knights are now in control, 26-17, as the end of the third quarter approaches.

9:46 p.m. | UCF regains lead over Florida with short FG

Daniel Obarski's 21-yard FG gives the Knights a 19-17 Lead. Obarski is now 2 for 3 on field goals

9:34 p.m. | Gators answer with big runs to take 17-16 lead

Florida running back Malik Davis ripped off a 36-yard run, and later finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run right between tackles. Davis now has six carries for 81 yards.

9:19 p.m. Knights rumble to second-half lead over UF

UCF running back Ryan O'Keefe sprints 74 yards down the sideline to set up a a 4-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Bowser. Florida's Ty'Ron Hopper ejected for throwing a punch following the PAT. UCF leads gators 16-10 with 9:56 remaining.

Questionable call?:Ty'Ron Hopper gets ejected for apparent punch after a breakout game for Florida Gators

8:48 p.m. | Gasparilla Bowl - Second Quarter

What went right: He didn’t make his first attempt, but Chris Howard’s second field-goal try was good, putting Florida back in front, 10-9, as halftime approached. 

What went wrong: UCF answered back with a rushing touchdown of its own, though the Knights couldn’t convert the two-point conversion, keeping Florida’s lead intact. The Gators couldn’t extend it on their next drive, however, as Chris Howard’s 51-yard field-goal attempts — his longest try of the season — didn’t come close to splitting the uprights. Florida also had a chance at a big play midway through the quarter, but Emory Jones overthrew a wide-open Trent Whittemore down the middle. 

Play of the quarter: Jones’ 20-yard rush on 3rd-and-18 extended a drive that ended in Howard’s 26-yard field goal, which restored UF’s lead. 

Trending: UCF gets the ball to begin the second half following a low-scoring first 30 minutes of action.

— Graham Hall

Florida Gators linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. (1) sacks UCF Knights quarterback Mikey Keene (16) on Thursday night in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.

8:44 p.m. | Gators lead UCF at the break

The Gators' Emory Jones has completed 9 of 22 for 88 yards, and has ran eight times for 66 years. Dameon Pierce has 10 carriers for 52 yards and a touchdown. As a team the Gators have amassed 145 yards on 21 carries.

UCF's Mikey Keene has completed 8 of 13 for 48 yards. The Knights have rushed the ball 19 times for 92 yards.

8:29 p.m. | Gators take late first-half lead over UCF

After missing a 51-yard attempt earlier in the quarter, Florida's Chris Howard connects on a 26-yarder to give the Gators a 10-9 lead with 1:36 left in second quarter of the Gasparilla Bowl.

8:16 p.m. | Knights move ahead of Gators

After a beautiful sack by Florida's Ty'Ron Hopper on third down, UCF's Daniel Obarski connects on a 34-yard field goal to give the Knights the 9-7 lead with 6:16 left in the second quarter.

7:59 p.m. UCF answers with early second-quarter TD

The Knights' Isaiah Bowser takes in from 3 yards out with 12:29 left in the half. Two-point conversion failed. Gators lead 7-6.

7:54 p.m. | Gasparilla Bowl - First Quarter

What went right: After six consecutive rushes, the Gators converted on 3rd-and-4 when Kemore Gamble hauled in a 15-yard reception, setting up Dameon Pierce’s 2-yard rushing touchdown three plays later that put Florida up 7-0 following the extra point. 

What went wrong: The Gators committed a false start penalty on the very first play of the night before going three-and-out, and then committed another near the end of the first quarter with the ball deep in UCF territory. And Florida’s run defense allowed 46 rushing yards across four plays to end the quarter. 

Play of the quarter: It’s Gamble’s catch-and-run that came after the Gators had the Knights thinking run in another short-yardage situation.

Trending: Florida’s defense looks to preserve the 7-0 lead as UCF has the ball at UF’s 33-yard line to begin the second quarter.

— Graham Hall

Florida Gators running back Dameon Pierce (27) dives across the goal line to score a touchdown in the first quarter of Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday night in Tampa.  [Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner]

7:46 p.m. | Gators strike first in Gasparilla Bowl

Dameon Pierce takes it in from 2 yards out to give Florida a 7-0 lead with 1:22 left in the first quarter. The Gators went 58 yards on nine plays, highlighted by a nice 15-yard throw back from Emory Jones to Kemore Gamble.

7:39 p.m. | Florida, UCF struggling on offense

The Gators have managed two first downs over their first three drives, while UCF has managed just one first down on three possessions midway through the first quarter.

 7:08 p.m. | Gators and Knights underway in the Gasparilla Bowl

First sellout in the bowl game's history.

Florida receives the opening kickoff and will start at their own 25 yard line.

6:42 | Florida vs. UCF — Tale of the Tape

Points Per Game — UF - 31.8.  ;   UCF - 32.2

Yards Per Game — UF - 470.2   ;   UCF - 399.7

Yard Allowed Per Game — UF - 362.2.  ;   UCF - 368.9

5:48 p.m | Gator Marching Band has arrived for the Gasparilla Bowl

5:30 p.m. | Gators favored by 6½ in the Gasparilla Bowl against UCF

According to Tipico Sportsbook, Florida is favored in tonight's game by 6½ points over UCF. 

The over-under for tonight's game is 55.5.