Can the Knights continue their winning ways?
Celestial. A game result that exorcised the demons of a season fraught with early injuries, an embarrassing fourth-quarter meltdown and bruised expectations. The only thing terrible about Saturday night is my insatiable case of FOMO that still lingers. What an absolute ass-kicking of the nation’s number 15th-ranked team. I can’t remember the last complete game like that, where we DOMINATED an opponent from the first play of scrimmage. The shock and awe campaign with an absolute bomb from Plumlee to Townsend set the tone of what we were trying to do, early. While I regret that I couldn’t go to this game, the mojo switch did work. I had made plans to celebrate my childhood friend’s milestone 37th birthday at a table with overpriced tapas, communal sangria and music that was way too loud. Ostensibly I also needed the face time with a common friend that I do work with. A mix of business and pleasure if you will. That’s exactly what Saturday was on the field too, depending on which end of it you were. We finally saw God (again). The heavens opened up and baptized a congregation of devoted disciples in a beautiful hue of bluish grays that will forever be etched in UCF Football lore. Our own Starry, Starry Knight.
Feels like an entirely new season, doesn’t it? The coffee has tasted better this week. The overcast weather has been enjoyable, and I even smiled and welcomed the small talk with the retired Publix cashier. Cecilia thought I was in love, but really, it’s just been a good week.
Can’t rest on your laurels too much in this league. Every week brings its unique brand of chaos. We head to West Texas and meet another .500 team eager to notch a post-season opportunity. The Texas Tech Red Raiders took care of their business in Lawrence, KS and outlasted the 16th-ranked Jayhawks with a final-minute field goal. Remember getting our ass kicked by them? Yeah, me neither. Two proud programs that each had their brand of preseason buzz. Some had the Red Raiders as dark horse favorites to win the Big 12.
I’ve always admired Texas Tech. My first introduction to Mike Leach. Michael Crabtree electrified the college football world when I was a student. The absolute best GIF there is known to man.
Their energy and irreverence remind me a lot of us. They are the fourth youngest Power Five program having been founded in 1923 and share a lot of similarities with UCF. Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) catering to a minority student population of over 25%. They both started as Technological universities in their namesake. They both have mascots that wield weapons. We’ve both been marginalized by in-state power brokers and the establishment at large and are galvanized by it. We all have heard the trite, misguided slights about UCF as being a “directional commuter school”, or a fallback option for kids that don’t get into their dream school. And even when you do, “U Can’t Finish.” Tech has its own iterations. As they say in the state of Texas, “If you can’t get your grades up, time to get your guns up!” I quite like that one. At least it’s witty. Regardless, both universities find ways to be successful and serve their educated populous and are some of the most colorful brands in the rich tapestry of college football and Division I athletics.
Even with our lackluster starts this season, we are both proving to be a sticking point in adding to the November chaos that is the Big 12 conference. Pokes fans are worried about their road to Arlington. Maybe they should have worried a little more about not letting the ‘Nauts put up a 40-piece on them last Saturday. I’m sure Lance Leipold would love to do the unthinkable in Lawrence and match the Jayhawks’s hardwood prowess on the gridiron and a Big 12 title run. Not losing to Texas Tech at home when you’re ranked the highest you’ve ever been during your tenure may be a start. Defending champions, Kansas State’s marquee wins are against two teams fighting for bowl eligibility this weekend. Each of us had to start our backup quarterbacks due to injury too.
This trip to Lubbock may prove to be cumbersome for fans traveling from Florida. Lubbock resides some five hours west of Dallas, TX and flights are proving to be very exorbitant on a pre-Thanksgiving weekend. Hopefully, we show up like some other beings did on a September evening in 1951. It was a muggy Texas night when an unusual formation of lights was seen over the city of Lubbock. The first sighting was reported by three professors from Texas Technological College, present-day Texas Tech. Famed as the Lubbock Lights Incidents, it received national publicity as a UFO sighting and was investigated by the U.S. Air Force. According to one of the professors Grayson Mead, the lights “appeared to be about the size of a dinner plate and they were greenish-blue, slightly fluorescent in color. They were smaller than the full moon on the horizon. There were about a dozen to fifteen of these lights… they were absolutely circular… it gave all of us… an extremely eerie feeling.”
The Citronauts are BACK in West Texas this Saturday.
We were otherworldly this past weekend. Was that our real team all along before we got beleaguered with an early season injury for QB1? Did we just need to get the proverbial “monkey off our back” in Clifton after a mental meltdown against Baylor that lingered far too long? Or maybe some arcs just need to be written in a way you least expect it. We have a new season in front of us and a renaissance of sorts. Saturday showed me we are damn sure capable of competing at this level. I can’t remember a more Jekyll & Hyde football season in my lifetime as a UCF fan. Usually, the ups and downs were reserved from season to season under the O’Leary years, or the back half of any Johnny Dawkins basketball season. We felt back. We felt like we had juice and swagger. I just don’t know if I still fully believe it.
For as much as this season has been a rollercoaster, it’s obvious these boys have not quit. The defensive prowess showcased in this game was impressive. We weren’t missing UCFast. We were missing UCFierce. We need to string together this mentality in West Texas on Saturday at 5 PM EST on… (checks notes) FS2?! This is our game. Quite literally, because no one else will be watching.
While the rest of the league has either moved on to basketball season or mired in conference championship game tiebreaker scenarios, the Golden Knights and Red Raiders are squarely focused on just getting ONE MORE WIN.
I want this one bad.
Could very well prove to be the bowl game for one of our seasons.
‘Til next time, take care of yourself and each other.