1997 UCF Golden Knights football team

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1997 UCF Golden Knights football
UCF Golden Knights logo.png
Conference Independent
1997 record 5–6
Head coach Gene McDowell (13th season)
Home stadium Citrus Bowl
(Capacity: 65,438)
← 1996
1998 →
1997 Division I-A independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Louisiana Tech           9 2  
Navy           7 4  
Notre Dame           7 6  
UAB           5 6  
UCF           5 6  
Northeast Louisiana           5 7  
Army           4 7  
Arkansas State           2 9  
Southwestern Louisiana           1 10  
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1997 UCF Golden Knights football season was the thirteenth and final for Gene McDowell as the head coach of the Golden Knights. Assistant coach Alan Gooch was named the national assistant coach of the year in 1997, and on January 20, 1998, in the wake of a federal fraud investigation concerning improper cellular phone benefits and use, McDowell resigned as head coach.[1][2]

UCF started to gain notoriety in 1997, playing a higher-profile schedule, including several SEC teams. The Golden Knights narrowly lost to Ole Miss on opening day. Tied 17–17 in overtime, Ole Miss scored a touchdown on their first possession. UCF scored a touchdown, a 21-yard pass from Daunte Culpepper to Charles Lee. After a timeout, and further consideration, the Golden Knights elected to go for the two-point conversion and try for the win. Daunte Culpepper attempting a quarterback draw up the middle, but was tackled just inches short of the goal line. UCF fell by the score of 24–23.[3]

A week later, UCF nearly pulled off another upset of an SEC team. The Golden Knights trailed South Carolina just 14–10 at halftime. In the third quarter, UCF shocked the Gamecock crowd with two quick touchdown scores. Daunte Culpepper connected with Siaha Burley for a 71-yard, and a 29-yard touchdown, and a surprising 24–14 lead. In the end, South Carolina rallied for a 33–31 victory.[4]

After the two-point loss at South Carolina, the Golden Knights gained considerable national attention on September 13 at #6 Nebraska. UCF led the Cornhuskers 17–14 at halftime.[5] The players received congratulatory cheers from the Lincoln, Nebraska crowd as they headed into the tunnel. UCF, however, could not hold off the powerful Cornhuskers in the second half, and fell by a final score of 38–24. After the game, Nebraska dropped a spot in the rankings, and UCF (for the first time) received a single vote in the AP Poll.

Lauded by media as the "best 0–3 team in the nation,"[6] over 41,000 fans showed up at the Citrus Bowl for UCF's home-opener against Idaho. The Golden Knights routed the Vandals 41–10 for their first win of the season. The Knights won five of their last eight games, including a perfect 4–0 record at home.

At the end of the season, Daunte Culpepper set 15 school records, and was named a finalist for Davey O'Brien Award. He was also named a semi-finalist for the Football News Offensive Player of the Year. Hearing impaired tailback Dwight Collins received the Disney's Wide World of Sports Spirit Award, and running backs coach Alan Gooch who worked with him, was named the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year.

After only two seasons in Division I-A, UCF was already beginning to earn a reputation as a "scary" team on the road. Their near-misses against high-profile teams was in contrast to their predicted status as a mid-major, non-conference school. It started prompting some reluctance among larger schools of scheduling the Knights in future seasons.[7]


The Citrus Bowl, the Knights home field.
Date Time Opponent Site TV Result Attendance
August 30 7:00 PM at Ole Miss* Vaught–Hemingway StadiumOxford, MS L 23–24   28,216
September 6 7:00 PM at South Carolina* Williams-Brice StadiumColumbia, SC SUN L 31–33   81,908
September 13 1:30 PM at No. 6 Nebraska* Memorial StadiumLincoln, NE L 24–38   75,327
September 20 7:00 PM Idaho* Citrus BowlOrlando, FL W 41–10   41,827
September 27 7:00 PM at No. 8 Auburn* Jordan-Hare StadiumAuburn, AL PPV L 14–41   82,109
October 4 2:00 PM at Kent State* Dix StadiumKent, OH W 59–43   10,584
October 11 4:00 PM Samford* Citrus Bowl • Orlando, FL W 52–7   22,016
October 25 2:30 PM at Mississippi State* Scott FieldStarkville, MS L 28–35   28,621
November 1 8:00 PM at Northeast Louisiana* Malone StadiumMonroe, LA L 41–45   15,936
November 15 4:00 PM Eastern Michigan* Citrus Bowl • Orlando, FL W 27–10   39,433
November 22 12:00 PM Toledo* Citrus Bowl • Orlando, FL W 34–17   15,062
*Non-conference game. #Rankings from AP Poll. All times are in Eastern Time.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Daunte's World... Orlando's Biggest Attraction: Part 6 of 8 - The History of UCF Football". University of Central Florida Athletics Association. July 26, 2007. Retrieved June 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Plus: College Football -- Central Florida; Coach Quits After Guilty Plea". The New York Times. January 21, 1998. Retrieved June 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ Green, Jerry (August 31, 1997). "Golden Knights Go For Two, Lose In Overtime". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  4. ^ Schmitz, Brian (September 7, 1997). "UCF Gaining Ground On Prestigious Rivals". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ Central Florida vs Nebraska Cornhuskers
  6. ^ Greene, Jerry (September 17, 1997). "UCF Can Make A Case As The Best 0-3 Team". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  7. ^ Greene, Jerry (September 14, 1997). "Ad: Ucf Performance Repellent To `Big Teams'". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved November 24, 2014.