TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Isaiah Bowser ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns, Ryan O’Keefe had 85 yards on seven receptions, and Central Florida earned Sunshine State bragging rights by beating Florida 29-17 in the Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday night.
UCF (9-4) took a 26-17 lead late in the third when Daniel Obarski made a 21-yard field goal and Mikey Keene threw a 54-yard scoring strike to O’Keefe in the span of about two minutes. Obarski then made it 29-17 on a 33-yarder with 2:41 to play.
Florida quarterback Emory Jones, playing in his final game with the Gators before entering the transfer portal, completed 14 of 36 passes for 171 yards. He also ran for 62 yards on 10 carries.
Florida was led by interim coach Greg Knox, who took over when Dan Mullen was fired before the regular-season finale against Florida State. Former Louisiana coach Billy Napier will take over for the 2022 season. Florida (6-7) finished with its first losing record since 2017.
UCF outgained Florida 436-376. O’Keefe also put up 110 rushing yards, including a 74-yard run in third quarter after which Bowser put UCF up 16-10 with a TD run 4 yards out.
Florida regained the lead, 17-16, on its next possession when Malik Davis had a 19-yard rushing TD.
Florida led 10-9 at halftime thanks to Chris Howard’s 26-yard field goal with 1:36 left in the second quarter.
Keene replaced starting QB Dillon Gabriel, who broke his left collarbone against Louisville in September. The true freshman went 14 of 22 for 144 yards on Thursday.
It was the first time the time the two teams played since Florida won 42-0 during its 2006 national championship season. The Gators also won 58-27 in 1999.
The announced crowd at Raymond James Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a Gasparilla Bowl record of 63,669.
After the game ended, the teams were involved in a scrum that featured pushing and shoving near midfield.
Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter was taken off the field on a cart after a hard hit late in the fourth quarter.
UCF brought a No. 2 uniform onto the field before the game to honor former Knights running back Otis Anderson Jr., who died last month at the age of 23.
The game was briefly delayed in the first quarter when Florida linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper lost his helmet. It got caught in the facemask of UCF guard Cole Schneider, and it took a couple of minutes to separate the two helmets. Later, Hopper was ejected in the third quarter after throwing a punch.
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