UCF gets first win over Florida in Gasparilla Bowl

UCF has a win over Florida.

The Knights beat the Gators 29-17 in Thursday night's Gasparilla Bowl. It's the first win for UCF in three matchups with the Gators and it came after UCF's Ryan O'Keefe broke the game open in the second half.

O'Keefe had a 74-yard run to set up UCF's first touchdown of the second half. After Florida responded with a TD and UCF added a field goal for a 19-17 lead, O'Keefe caught a 54-yard TD pass from Mikey Keene to give UCF a two-score lead that it never relinquished.

Florida QB Emory Jones struggled throwing Thursday night. While the Gators rushed for over 200 yards and averaged nearly 7 yards an attempt, Jones missed open receivers numerous times and was just 14-of-33 passing for 171 yards.

Keene’s passing line wasn’t much prettier, but UCF (9-4) was also great on the ground. Both Isaiah Bowser and O’Keefe ran for 100 yards. O’Keefe finished with 110 rushing yards on four carries and had seven catches for 85 yards.

After the game, things got a little chippy.

The Gasparilla Bowl was the first time the teams had played each other since 2006 and over 60,000 people were in attendance at Raymond James Stadium. The two teams are meeting in 2024 in Gainesville before playing at UCF in 2030 and at Florida again in 2033. UCF will be a member of the Big 12 by the time the first game in that series happens as the Knights are heading to the conference with BYU, Cincinnati and Houston. And Thursday night's win over Florida is another statement by the program, even if Florida finishes a tumultuous season at 6-7.

Florida, meanwhile, now officially begins the Billy Napier era. The former Louisiana coach was in attendance as Greg Knox served as the interim coach for the game. Napier was hired at the end of the season after Dan Mullen got fired following a loss to Missouri that dropped the Gators to 5-6.