Dec. 4, 2010
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The legacy of UCF's 2010 football team is firmly entrenched what with a 10-win season, a first-ever national ranking and a Conference USA title already in hand. Now, for their next act, the Knights hope to capture the first bowl victory in school history.
By virtue of Saturday's 17-7 defeat of SMU, UCF won its second C-USA title in four seasons and earned a return trip to the 52nd AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The Knights (10-3) will most likely play Georgia (6-6 overall) in the Dec. 31 game at 3:30 p.m. (ET).
The Knights will be making the fourth bowl trip of their young history. UCF lost 49-48 in overtime to Nevada in 2005, fell 10-3 to Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl in 2007 and faltered 45-24 against Rutgers last year in the St. Pete Bowl.
UCF senior outside linebacker Derrick Hallman said that a return to the Liberty Bowl will spark memories of the pain of losing there in 2007. UCF should be very familiar with the facility, having routed Memphis in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium a week ago. Now, the Knights want to leave Memphis in three weeks with the first bowl victory in school history.
``I'm excited about the Liberty Bowl, but last time there left a bitter taste in our mouths because we played so well for four quarters on defense,'' said Hallman, a freshman on the 2007 team and a co-captain on the 2010 team. ``We just had some mishaps with some missed field goals and we couldn't finish on offense. We gave up a late touchdown at the end of the game, but this time we want to come away with a victory.''
UCF Athletics Director Keith Tribble said he couldn't be happier about UCF's second trip to the Liberty Bowl in four seasons. Tribble likes getting the chance to compete against a Southeastern Conference school and he feels that this UCF team is on a mission to cap one of the most special seasons in school history with a first bowl victory.
``Memphis will be really nice. Four days in Memphis, having a chance to play an SEC team will be really nice and we look forward to it,'' Tribble said. ``When I saw the kids working out in spring ball and in the summer they had their minds set on wanting to represent this conference as champions. They wanted to get to this (C-USA title) game and win it and they did it. Very few times in life do you get a chance to follow out our dreams and goals and they did it. Now, they want to go to the Liberty Bowl, play a good opponent from the SEC and win the game, and we think we can do it.''
Tribble said the fact that UCF is in its third bowl in four seasons is proof that the Knights are a promising program on the rise. He stood behind head coach George O'Leary when the team slumped to 4-8 in 2008, and he feels that the consecutive bowl trips in 2009 and '10 now show that UCF is a force to be reckoned with.
``It shows that Coach O'Leary is doing the right things with his program,'' said Tribble, who was on the podium Saturday to accept the C-USA title trophy and the invitation to the Liberty Bowl. I've always said that I want to build great programs with solid foundations. You're going to have bad seasons once in a while, but in the end if you have a good program you'll be able to win conference championships like we did here today.''
Quite possibly no one is more eager to get to the Liberty Bowl and play the University of Georgia than UCF standout defensive end Bruce Miller, a native of Canton, Ga. Miller grew up a Bulldogs fan and wanted to attend Georgia at one time, but was never recruited by the Dawgs.
``Being a Georgia native and wanting to be a Georgia Bulldog was something huge for me and I'm really excited about getting the opportunity to play these guys,'' Miller said. ``I'm as excited as any other Florida guy would be to play Miami or South Florida or Florida. Hopefully, we can go up there to the Liberty Bowl and play well like we're supposed to.''
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John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.