UCF arrives for Gasparilla Bowl
Knights hit Busch Gardens, enjoy comforts of being close to home.
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.”
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.”