South Florida–UCF football rivalry
|First meeting||September 17, 2005
South Florida 31, UCF 14
|Latest meeting||November 26, 2015
South Florida 44, UCF 3
|Next meeting||November 2016|
|All-time series||South Florida leads, 5–2|
|Longest win streak||South Florida, 4 (2005–08)|
|Current win streak||South Florida, 1 (2015)|
The South Florida–UCF football rivalry is an American college football rivalry between the University of Central Florida Knights and University of South Florida Bulls. It was played from 2005–08, and returned in 2013 as a yearly conference game hosted on Thanksgiving weekend, following UCF's entrance into the American Athletic Conference. South Florida currently leads the series 5–2. The game is sometimes known as the War on I–4 or the I–4 Corridor Clash.
Starting when the schools first met on the gridiron in 2005, some writers dubbed the rivalry the "War on I–4". When the series resumed in 2013, administrators from both schools named it the "I–4 Corridor Clash". Both names refer to Interstate 4, an interstate highway that runs through both Orlando and Tampa in Central Florida. The moniker War on I-4 was instead reserved for the rivalry between the Tampa Bay Storm and Orlando Predators of the AFL.
Discussions about scheduling a game between the Knights and Bulls began shortly after South Florida fielded its first NCAA Division I-AA team in 1997. Supporters suggested such a rivalry could help generate interest and revenue for both burgeoning teams. The prospect became more serious when the Bulls entered Division I-A in 2001 and was very popular among fans, but as it would be a non-conference series, difficulties arose. UCF had overbooked its future schedules and would have to break commitments. Meanwhile, South Florida officials worried that their young program stood to take in less revenue from a home-and-away series against UCF than it would with an additional home game on the schedule. Serious planning for a series did not commence until 2003.
First games (2005–2008)
By 2003, serious discussions resumed as both schools had joined conferences – South Florida joined Conference USA (C-USA) in 2001, while UCF joined the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in 2002. That year, the schools' athletics directors met and agreed to schedule games for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Subsequently, South Florida joined the Big East, an Automatic Qualifying conference, in 2005, while UCF joined C-USA the same year. The Bulls won both games, which both drew crowds over 45,000. The series was extended for 2007 and 2008 as part of an agreement with C-USA that the Bulls play a member of the conference annually for five years. South Florida won these games as well, including a 64–12 blowout in 2007. South Florida declined to schedule further games in the series, indicating it wished to pursue more competitive and high profile opponents and teams from outside Florida.
Renewed series (2013–present)
Conference realignment shed new light on the rivalry in 2011, when UCF was admitted to the Big East Conference (later realigned as the American Athletic Conference). For the first time, both schools were part of the same conference, and the rivalry resumed as a regular conference match beginning with the 2013 season. The games have been scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend. In 2013, UCF pulled off a late 23–20 win against the Bulls in Orlando to earn its first victory against South Florida. In May 2014, The American announced that as of the 2015 season, both schools will be a member of the East Division.
Since 2005, the Bulls and Knights have played seven times. South Florida leads the series 5–2. The game has been played in two cities and three stadiums: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, and the Citrus Bowl and Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando, Florida. South Florida leads the series in Tampa (2–1) and in Orlando (3–1).
|South Florida victories||UCF victories|
|1||September 17, 2005||Tampa, FL||South Florida||31–14||45,139|
|2||September 16, 2006||Orlando, FL||South Florida||24–17||46,708|
|3||October 6, 2007||Tampa, FL||South Florida||64–12||65,948|
|4||September 6, 2008||Orlando, FL||South Florida||31–24OT||46,805|
|5||November 29, 2013||Orlando, FL||UCF||23–20||45,952|
|6||November 28, 2014||Tampa, FL||UCF||16–0||36,963|
|7||November 26, 2015||Orlando, FL||South Florida||44–3||25,967|
|Series: South Florida leads 5–2|
A crowd of 45,139, second-largest (until that time) in South Florida's relatively brief football history, watched the Bulls build a 21–0 halftime lead on the strength of a relentless running attack that finished with 326 yards. Andre Hall ran for 155 yards and scored two touchdowns Saturday night to help South Florida beat UCF 31–14.
UCF was held to 45 yards rushing and was shut out until Joe Burnett returned a third-quarter punt 60 yards to the South Florida 4, setting up Steven Moffett's touchdown run on the next play. Moffett also threw a 9-yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall late in the fourth quarter.
One play after Hall nearly scored on a 17-yard run, Pat Julmiste added South Florida's last TD on 1-yard quarterback sneak late in the third quarter. Kyle Bronson added a fourth-quarter field goal to make it 31–7.
South Florida freshman quarterback Matt Grothe threw for 302 yards and ran for another 73, eclipsing Marquel Blackwell's 239-yard game against New Haven in 1999. Blackwell also had a 238-yard game that same year against Liberty. Meanwhile, Grothe now has the top three rushing games by a freshman quarterback in South Florida history, including his 73 yards. He had 82 rushing yards against Florida International and 58 in the season opener against McNeese State. Blackwell had held the record with 57 yards against Southwest Texas State in 1999.
The Bulls defeated the cross-state Knights 64–12 in front of a home crowd announced at 65,948. The Bulls held the Knights to just 145 total yards and Kevin Smith, who came in as the nation's leading rusher at 172 yards per game, to just 55 yards in one half of play, the only time during the season that a defense held Smith to under 100 yards. South Florida gained 543 total yards—over three times as much as UCF—while holding the ball three fewer minutes than the Knights. UCF scored their only offensive points—a Kyle Israel rush for a touchdown, and a field goal—in the first half. UCF and South Florida would also exchange safeties.
In what was the final meeting of the War on I-4 for many years, the visiting Bulls downed the Knights 31–24 in a closely contested overtime battle. With UCF trailing 24-7 late in the 4th quarter, quarterback Michael Greco threw two touchdown passes in less than a minute, including passes of 13 yards to Corey Rabazinski and 31 yards to Rocky Ross, to tie the game at 24 with 1:40 remaining in regulation. South Florida won the game when they stopped UCF on a 4th and short in overtime.
UCF debuted their black helmets for the first and only time for this matchup (worn with gold jerseys and black pants). Despite turning the ball over five times, the Knights found a way to earn their first victory in the I-4 Corridor Clash against South Florida. Running back Storm Johnson fumbled the ball on UCF's first two drives, including a drop at the Bulls 10 yard line. Trailing with under five minutes left in regulation, QB Blake Bortles found WR Breshad Perriman for a 52–yard go-ahead touchdown reception. With 1:20 left in the fourth quarter and charging down the field, South Florida quarterback Mike White was intercepted by CB Jordan Ozerities, and he returned the ball 52 yards to the Bulls 37 yard line. The Knights ran out the clock for the victory.
After a scoreless first quarter, Justin Holman led the Knights on a 17-play, 80 yard scoring drive to open the second quarter. The Knights held the Bulls offense to a three-and-out on the next series, which was followed by an 8-play, 73 yard scoring drive by UCF capped off by a 21-yard run from Rannell Hall. UCF held South Florida to 200 yards of total offense, 5 yards rushing, and forced three turnovers on downs. The Bulls missed a field goal and were not able to convert on three UCF turnovers.
After scoring a field goal on their first drive, the Knights were shut out by the Bulls defense. The Bulls held UCF to 203 yards of total offense and caught two interceptions. Scoring 44 unanswered points and gaining 455 offensive yards, South Florida handed UCF their twelfth loss of the season, guaranteeing their second winless campaign since 2004. For the first time since 1995, UCF wore black jerseys and black pants. USF, on the other hand, completed one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in college football history to finish 8-4 after a 1-3 start.
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