As resident UCF historian for Citronauty by Nature (a title I have just invented for myself), I hope to bring you a weekly look into the past of the UCF Knights.
The Year of our Knightro 2003
Let me bring you back to 2003. One year before the George O’Leary glory days. This was the second of three years spent in the wilderness that is the Mid-American Conference. Knights fans exuded optimism in year two of a conference they expected the team to dominate.
The year began with a horrid loss on the road to then #10 Virginia Tech.* But no one expected UCF to walk out of Blacksburg with a victory. Week 2 would provide the Knights an opportunity to shine.
Legendary Coach Howard Schnellenberger brought his upstart Owls to the Citrus Bowl to play the UCF (then Golden) Knights.** The game featured two QBs who both threw for then record yardage for each school. The Knights’ offense was headed by QB Ryan Schneider who threw for nearly 500 yards and two TDs. The game also featured NFL stalwarts Brandon Marshall and Matt Prater.
The FAU Owls scored a TD to pull within 4 points with less than 3 minutes left in the game. After recovering the onside kick, FAU failed to score, ensuring a Knights 33-29 victory.
Omen of Impending Doom
The uneasy feeling of only winning by 4 points against FAU should have tipped fans off to how the rest of the season would unfold. The Knights would go on to win only 2 more games that year. They fired head coach Mike Kruczek after a 3-7 start. This left interim coach Alan Gooch*** to coach the Knights’ first ever home televised game on an ESPN network channel against Marshall, a game which the Knights lost.
The Knights’ 2003 season mercifully came to a close with a home drubbing at the hands of Ben Roethlisberger of Miami(OH).
Are the FAU owls the Knights’ proverbial canary-in-the-coal mine? Stay tuned to find out.
* I attended this game as I won a free trip sponsored by the UCF SGA. We actually stayed at a Knights’ Inn with the team. Virginia Tech fans couldn’t have been nicer to us.
** I did not attend this game as I was working at the Albertson’s on Colonial.
*** Gooch’s wife Linda is the current head coach of the cheerleading team.
Click here for a recap of that 2003 game.