1988 UCF Knights football team

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1988 UCF Knights football
1988 record6–5
Head coachGene McDowell (4th season)
Home stadiumCitrus Bowl
← 1987
1989 →

The 1988 UCF Knights football season was Gene McDowell's fourth as the head coach of the Knights. After making the playoffs the year before, UCF started off the season ranked in the top 5 of Division II.[1] After defeating the defending Division II national champions Troy State in week 3, the Knights jumped to No. 2 in the nation,[2] a spot they held for three consecutive weeks.[3] The Knights faltered, however, and lost five of their last six games. McDowell's 1988 Knights finished the season with a 6–5 overall record and missed the Division II playoffs.[4][5]

The Knights competed as an NCAA Division II Independent. The team played their home games at the Citrus Bowl in Downtown Orlando.

A movement on campus in 1988 suggested the team change its nickname from Knights to "Sharks", but it was rejected by the school.[6]

Schedule and results[edit]

The Citrus Bowl, the Knights home field
September 2Bethune–CookmanW 29–2114,831
September 10West Georgia
  • Citrus Bowl
  • Orlando, Florida
W 33–1411,270
September 17 No. 1 Troy
  • Citrus Bowl
  • Orlando, Florida
W 26–1831,789
September 24at East Tennessee StateW 23–175,447
October 1North Alabama
  • Citrus Bowl
  • Orlando, Florida
W 35–3321,682
October 8New Haven
  • Citrus Bowl
  • Orlando, Florida
L 23–3122,641
October 15Southern Connecticut State
  • Citrus Bowl
  • Orlando, Florida
W 24–1622,439
October 22at Valdosta StateL 19–486,500
October 29Georgia Southern
  • Citrus Bowl
  • Orlando, Florida
L 17–3128,682
November 5at LibertyL 7–243,530
November 12at Eastern KentuckyL 31–356,800
  • Rankings from no poll released prior to the game

The "Noise Penalty" game[edit]

A stone marker at Spectrum Stadium memorializes the 1988 "Towel Game".

The Noise Penalty Game, also known as the Towel Game, is one of the most legendary games in the history of UCF Knights football. It took place on September 17, 1988 at the Citrus Bowl.[7][8] The Knights, ranked No. 3 in Division II at the time, hosted No. 1 ranked Troy State,[9] and it wound up being the Knights' biggest win to-date in the young team's history. The Troy State Trojans had knocked UCF out of the Division II playoffs the year prior,[9] and went on to win the 1987 Division II championship. Going into the game, both teams were undefeated at 2–0, and Troy State was riding a 15-game unbeaten streak.[10] A then-school record crowd of 31,789 spectators arrived at the Citrus Bowl, anxious to see the if the Knights could seek revenge and upset Troy State, and ultimately elevate to the Division II No. 1 ranking in the nation.[9]

Prior to the game, yellow handkerchiefs were handed out to the fans to wave, printed with the words "Noise Penalty." The raucous crowd did their part, creating an intimidating environment for the Trojans players all night long.[7] The UCF fans were so loud at one point, Trojans quarterback Bob Godsey could not call plays.[7] Officials stopped the game seven times, and eventually penalized the Knights a timeout due to the excessive crowd noise.[7] In addition, stadium officials announced that fans had consumed 100 kegs of beer during the game.[7]

First half[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Trojans 6 6 6 0 18
Knights 3 3 7 13 26

UCF scored first with a 45-yard field goal by Blake Holton. The score was set up by a fumble by Troy State quarterback Bob Godsey, recovered by Steve Spears at the Trojans 46 yard line. Troy State then took the lead 6-3 with a 78-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Godsey, but the extra point failed.[11][12]

In the second quarter, UCF defender Jimmy Goodman intercepted Godsey at the Trojans 18 yard line, setting up a 34-yard field goal by Travis Allen, and a 6-6 tie. The tie was short-lived, however, as Godsey connected with Kenny Eddenfield for a 61-yard touchdown. UCF blocked the extra point, and Troy State led 12-6 at halftime.[11][12]

Second half[edit]

Troy State extended their lead to 18-6 early in the third quarter after a 1-yard touchdown by Tony Young. A two-point conversion failed. Later in the third quarter, UCF quarterback Shane Willis threw a 55-yard pass to Arnell Spencer, all the way down inside the Trojans 13-yard line. After that, Willis executed a trick play, pitching the ball to wide receiver Sean Beckton, who threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Spencer in the left corner of the endzone to make the score 18-13.[11][12]

The Knights blocked a Trojans punt, and recovered it in the endzone, but officials ruled the ball down at the 1 yard line. They failed to score on the drive though when Willis threw an interception. The UCF defense forced another punt, and the Knights got the ball at the Trojans 43 yard line. In just 14 seconds, the Knights were in the endzone after a 28-yard reception by Shawn Jefferson, followed by a 1-yard touchdown run by Gil Barnes. Leading 19-18, the Knights were not fooled by a Trojans fake punt attempt. Facing 4th down & 3 at their own 27, Troy State tried to run up the middle for a first down, but was stuffed for no gain. Five plays later, UCF was in the endzone again, with an 8-yard touchdown run by Mark Giacone. UCF won by the final score of 26-18.[11][12] Days later, the Knights were voted No. 2 in the NCAA Division II poll,[2] and they would remain there for three weeks.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "College Beat". Orlando Sentinel. September 6, 1988. p. 18. Retrieved November 15, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  2. ^ a b Ewing, Craig (September 20, 1988). "UCF can't win at the polls – 'mistake' means No. 2". Orlando Sentinel. p. 29. Retrieved November 15, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  3. ^ a b Ewing, Craig (October 11, 1988). "Knights tumble to 14th in NCAA Division II poll". Orlando Sentinel. p. 13. Retrieved November 15, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  4. ^ "UCF Develops Winning Ways: Part 4 of 8 – The History of UCF Football". University of Central Florida Athletics Association. 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  5. ^ 2006 UCF Knights Football Media Guide
  6. ^ Hightower, Kyle (April 13, 2007). "'Golden' era ends for UCF". Orlando Sentinel. p. D3. Retrieved November 13, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  7. ^ a b c d e Schmitz, Brian (September 18, 1988). "Knights make noise pollsters should hear". Orlando Sentinel. p. 37. Retrieved November 15, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  8. ^ Helwig, Brandon (November 23, 2006). "Top 15 Memorable Games at the Citrus Bowl". UCF Sports. Rivals.com. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Greene, Jerry (September 17, 1988). "McDowell won't rest until Knights the best". Orlando Sentinel. p. 39. Retrieved November 15, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  10. ^ "Troy State at UCF". Orlando Sentinel. September 17, 1988. p. 44. Retrieved November 15, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  11. ^ a b c d Ewing, Craig (September 18, 1988). "Knights shed the past, stake a claim for No. 1 (Part 1)". Orlando Sentinel. p. 37. Retrieved November 15, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  12. ^ a b c d Ewing, Craig (September 18, 1988). "Knights shed the past, stake a claim for No. 1 (Part 2)". Orlando Sentinel. p. 46. Retrieved November 15, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.open access