A lot happened between Dec. 4, 2014 and Sept. 3, 2016, the dates of the two most recent University of Central Florida football victories. The incomprehensible tragedy at the Pulse nightclub three months ago understandably makes the region forget the unimportant things like football games.
But on that December day 21 months ago, the Knights edged the East Carolina Pirates, 32-30. They looked forward to their appearance in the St. Petersburg Bowl the day after Christmas.
Few could have imagined UCF’s 34-27 loss to North Carolina State at Tropicana Field that day would start a 13-game losing streak that included all 12 games in 2015. They ranked near the bottom.
The Knights earned those 12 losses. They were at, or near, the bottom nationally in several offensive and defensive statistics.
That spelled the end for Coach George O’Leary. The Scott Frost era began last Saturday with the Knights’ 38-0 victory over South Carolina State. The level of competition increases dramatically on Saturday as UCF travels to Michigan Stadium (aka The Big House) to take on the Wolverines.
“It’s going to be a whole different level of speed now,” said Frost on KnightsNews.com. “A whole different level of size on the other side.”
Let’s start with the bright side first. The athletic department will bring home a huge check from the visitors’ share of the proceeds. Nearly 110,000 fans will cram into The Big House looking to see the gladiators consumed by the lions.
Frost is interested in seeing his team grow and be competitive. He hopes to see his team enter one of the most iconic venues in college football and not be intimidated by their surroundings.
He has some memories of UCF facing similar circumstances nearly 20 years ago. Although, at the time, Frost was on the other side.
He was a senior quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1997 when the Knights came to Lincoln, Nebraska to face Coach Tom Osborne’s team that rarely lost at home.
UCF was in just their second season in college football’s top division, yet led the mighty Cornhuskers at halftime, 17-14. Nebraska recovered and won the game, 38-24 and went on to yet another national championship that year.
To keep it real, Michigan is a 35-point favorite. They apparently have some motivation for that 1997 season when both Michigan and Frost’s Cornhuskers finished the year unbeaten.
Nebraska was voted the national champion and Frost offered a few comments along the way. The Orlando Sentinel’s David Whitley has a humorous account of Michigan using this week to whip up memories of that season’s outcome. Many do not put it past Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh to use such methods to motivate his team and prevent overconfidence.
Make no mistake, the dislike for Frost among the Michigan faithful is for real. They want UCF to pay for their lingering disappointment. One of those crushed by the results of that 1997 result speaks for those who still have not moved on with their lives.
This is the clearest indication it will be a Frosty reception in Ann Arbor.