UCF Wins Gasparilla Bowl Over Florida 29-17: Reaction, Analysis, 5 Thoughts

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UCF beat Florida to win the Union Home Gasparilla Bowl. 5 thoughts, analysis of the game, and what it all means.

UCF 29, Florida 17: Union Home Gasparilla Bowl 5 Things That Matter

Prediction: Florida 34, UCF 20
Line: Florida -7, o/u: 56
Final Score: UCF 29, Florida 17

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5. UCF just flat-beat Florida

There wasn’t anything fancy about this.

Not dogging Army in any way, but it’s not like UCF ran some funky offense to beat an SEC team. It didn’t have some trick that Florida couldn’t figure out, and it didn’t do anything crazier than blocking and tackling better than the other side.

Yeah, Florida is in a transitional period, and yeah, this wasn’t anywhere near the team it was supposed to be after a decent start to the season, but it’s not UCF’s fault that the team with all the SEC talent couldn’t execute.

UCF outgained the Gators by 60 yards, it ran better, it made fewer mistakes, and it dominated the game in the second half.

UCF played like the Power Five powerhouse, and not like the team that struggled so much throughout the year. However …

4. UCF won 9 games
3. Isaiah Bowser made the difference
2. Florida needs a fresh start
1. UCF just beat Florida. Yeah, it matters.

NEXT: UCF won 9 games

4. UCF won 9 games

No, this wasn’t the Florida team everyone thought it would be, but UCF lost its starting quarterback in the early part of the season.

Without Dillon Gabriel, the Knights sputtered, the team was 3-3, and everything could’ve become a whole lot worse considering the hopes for an American Athletic Conference Championship and big season were dead.

But the Knights started winning with tough defense, enough offense to get by, and – okay – it helped that the back half of the slate was loaded with layups.

Whatever. Nine wins are nine wins.

UCF won six of its last seven games, the program finished with nine victories, and the first year under Gus Malzahn turned out to be okay.

Part of the adversity came from the health problems of …

NEXT: Isaiah Bowser made the difference

3. Isaiah Bowser made the difference

Ryan O’Keefe wasn’t bad, either.

Isaiah Bowser announced his arrival at UCF with a bang after transferring in from Northwestern, running for 172 yards and a score in a win over Boise State. He followed it up with four touchdowns against Bethune-Cookman, and then he got hurt.

He still managed 111 yards in the win over Memphis and 88 more against Temple, but he missed all or parts of six games.

The time off did the 225-pounder some good.

The UCF offensive line was great, but Bowser rose up with 115 yards and two touchdowns on a tough 35 carries. Throw in 110 yards from do-it-all WR Ryan O’Keefe – he also caught seven passes or 85 yards and a score – and UCF rolled over the team that was supposed to dominate on the ground with 288 yards.

NEXT: Florida needs a fresh start

2. Florida needs a fresh start

It’s amazing how fast this all flipped.

Florida went 11-2 in 2019 with an Orange Bowl win over Virginia. Dan Mullen had won 21 games in his first two seasons, and he appeared to be the perfect hire to make the Gator program special again.

In 2020 Mullen had one of the nation’s most amazing offenses, the team ripped through the first nine games at 8-1, and then everything went down the tubes after the strange fog-game loss to LSU late last season. Including that, Florida is 6-10 in its last 16 games.

The team pivoted from a top passing attack to a grinding running style, but the defense that’s been so questionable over the last few years never got strong enough.

Effort wasn’t a problem in this. The Gators pushed, but they simply weren’t good enough, and now …

Billy Napier is taking over, and by all early indications he’s about to change the Gator world.

NEXT: UCF just beat Florida. Yeah, it matters.

1. UCF just beat Florida. Yeah, it matters.

It was exactly the way this was all designed. Two Florida schools were supposed to generate a buzz and a whole lot of interest, and they did just that.

The game was a sellout. It was a big deal to the respective fan bases.

Florida is in a transitional phase, and this all might change in a big hurry under the new guy, and it’s still the big college football thing in the state, but …

UCF fans get bragging rights, and if you don’t think this fan base knows how to get under the skin of other schools, you’re new to the college football side of social media.

Of course this win doesn’t really mean anything in the larger scheme of things, but this is still all relatively new.

Even with all of the recent success, UCF isn’t a blue-blood football school – the football program only been around since 1979 and has only been in the FCS since 1996.

But considering the great run a few years ago, and now with the Gus Malzahn era just getting going with a win over Florida, and with the school joining the Big 12 in 2023, this is one bowl win that’s going to resonate.

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