UCF ar­rives for Gas­par­illa Bowl

Knights hit Busch Gar­dens, en­joy com­forts of be­ing close to home.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Brian Mur­phy

TAMPA — As the UCF Knights stepped off their bus in front of the Hil­ton Down­town Tampa, the play­ers were given bead neck­laces and greeted by men dressed as pi­rates. Within a cou­ple of hours, they were headed to Busch Gar­dens.

UCF will end its sea­son in fairly fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, but coach Josh He­u­pel wants his play­ers to em­brace ev­ery­thing that will make this trip to the Bad Boy Mow­ers Gas­par­illa Bowl dif­fer­ent from a con­fer­ence road game at ri­val South Florida.

“It's im­por­tant for our guys to have a fun ex­pe­ri­ence. This is a re­ward for ev­ery­thing that they've done through­out the course of the sea­son, an op­por­tu­nity to en­joy each other and en­joy be­ing to­gether one more time,” He­u­pel said. “At the same time, when it's time to go into meet­ings, when it's time to get to prac­tice, your at­ten­tion and fo­cus has to be solely on that.”

One of the more en­joy­able as­pects of this bowl week for many Knights is that it's close to home.

UCF will face off with Mar­shall at 2:30 p.m. Mon­day at Ray­mond James Sta­dium. The

game will air on ESPN.

Of­fen­sive line­man Sa­muel Jack­son, who grew up about an hour away in Braden­ton, ex­pects to have a siz­able cheer­ing sec­tion.

“I’m us­ing all six of my tick­ets, and then I’ve got two more, so I’ve got eight peo­ple com­ing,” he said. “On top of that, who­ever else shows up, shows up. … I’m ex­cited to go play in front of my friends and fam­ily, and hope­fully we’re go­ing to come out of here with this win.”

Util­ity player Otis An­der­son thinks UCF will have “a good home-field ad­van­tage” in­side Ray­mond James Sta­dium on Mon­day af­ter­noon. The Knights are heav­ily fa­vored to de­feat Mar­shall, but An­der­son isn’t buy­ing into the no­tion that UCF might be over­look­ing the Thun­der­ing Herd.

“They are looked at as an un­der­dog, but for the past cou­ple years, we were, too,” he said. “So, we can’t over­look them.”

Killins says thank you:

Se­nior run­ning back Adrian Killins ex­pressed his grat­i­tude for UCF and its fans in a so­cial-me­dia post Thurs­day morn­ing. While Killins didn’t state ex­plic­itly in the mes­sage he will skip the Gas­par­illa Bowl, it does sound as if Killins has played his fi­nal snap as a Knight.

“Now, it is time for me to move on and tran­si­tion into the next chap­ter of my life,” Killins wrote. “I will be go­ing af­ter my life­long dream of play­ing in the Na­tional Foot­ball League. UCF will al­ways hold a spe­cial place in my heart.”

Killins has run for 2,459 yards and scored 25 rush­ing touch­downs in his four sea­sons at UCF.

Both marks are the fifth­most in pro­gram his­tory. His 34 to­tal touch­downs are the fourth-most.

“He’s been a brother. More than a team­mate,” An­der­son said of Killins. The two have known each other since child­hood and spent years run­ning track to­gether and against one another be­fore be­com­ing team­mates at UCF.

“For me to come in and for him to take me un­der his wing, it just means a lot be­cause he’s a great guy,” An­der­son con­tin­ued. “If you’re able to just hang around him, you’ll see. And a lot of it rubs off on me.”

Who’s play­ing?

He­u­pel would not con­firm if play­ers such as Killins or wide re­ceiver Gabriel Davis will sit out the bowl game. In­stead, he re­peated a line from ear­lier this week, when he was asked about Davis’ sta­tus: “We’ll get into some of the per­son­nel here later in the week.”

An­der­son will play Mon­day, but he did ac­knowl­edge that he has a de­ci­sion to make in the days and weeks that fol­low: Re­turn to UCF for his se­nior sea­son or move on to the pros.

“Yeah, but that’s some­thing me and my par­ents will talk about,” he said.

An­der­son has gained 1,248 all-pur­pose yards this sea­son.

He leads the team with 665 rush­ing yards. He has av­er­aged 13.2 yards per punt re­turn, which is fifth-best in the na­tion.


The UCF foot­ball team hopped on roller coast­ers at Busch Gar­dens soon af­ter ar­riv­ing in Tampa ahead of Mon­day’s Gas­par­illa Bowl.


UCF coach Josh He­u­pel said the bowl game is a “re­ward for ev­ery­thing that they’ve done through­out the course of the sea­son.”

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