For good reasons, the pre-game buzz around campus this weekend had little to do with Saturday night’s home game with Bethune-Cookman. Instead, the excitement centered around news that circulated last week that UCF was one of four teams that would be invited to join the Big 12 Conference. That news came to a head on Friday when the conference presidents officially voted to extend an invitation to UCF, along with Houston, BYU and Cincinnati. That invitation was immediately and unanimously accepted by the University of Central Florida’s Board of Trustees and the news became official by Friday afternoon.

In noting the importance of the move, Board Chair Alex Martins noted that “Many of the decisions we have made in the past have been transformative for this institution. Collectively, they contribute to the greatness that is UCF today. The decision today also has the strong potential for being just as transformative for UCF.” UCF President Alexander Cartwright said the move was the result of many decades of efforts. “We are here today because of the years of hard work and advocacy of so many people. Our current and former university trustees, current and former university leaders, elected officials, generous donors, passionate alumni and fans, and dedicated faculty and staff have all helped to build the foundation of excellence that now supports our bold new future,” Cartwright said. “This invitation to the Big 12 is a testament to our collective achievements and the outstanding accomplishments of our student-athletes and our coaches over many years as we built our athletic program.”

Athletics Director Terry Mohajir echoed those sentiments. “This is a landmark day for anyone ever associated with UCF or UCF Athletics. As we anticipate a future move to the Big 12 Conference, we first owe a vote of thanks to all those at UCF who have gone before us. There’s a long list of student-athletes, coaches, athletics directors, university presidents and support staff, fans and donors and, of course, our student body, plus so many others whose hard work and successes have helped pave the way for today’s announcement. The bases were already loaded, and I feel very blessed and honored to get to step up to the plate on behalf of UCF.”

Those former administrators, boosters, coaches and staff cannot be praised enough for their contributions. It was not that long ago in the mid-1980s, the athletic department was given an ultimatum – raise $1.5 million to eliminate a football deficit or the program would be shuttered. At the time, local businessman Wayne Densch essentially saved the program with a $1 million donation. It was just an example of one of many steps that not only save the program but allowed it to grow.

While there are a ton of details to work out following Friday’s announcement – including a final exit date from the American Athletic Conference — it was a huge day for the Knights. In terms of enrollment, they are the largest Power 5 School in the nation and now they will eventually have the resources to compete on equal athletic footing any school in the country.

Well done Knights and Welcome to the College Football Big Time.

One advantage of having players get to the NFL is their ability to give back to their university. UCF announced earlier this year that former players Blake Bortles and Latavius Murray gave a combined gift of $500,000 to renovate the sports medicine center and other components of the Wayne Densch Sports Center Building that houses meeting spaces, offices and locker rooms.

Saturday’s game was the 17th ever between UCF and Bethune-Cookman; but only the second since 1995. The teams last met on Sept. 20, 2014 when the Knights won 41-7. Counting Saturday’s win, UCF now leads the all-time series 12-5 and have won eight in a row and 12 of the last 13. The last Bethune-Cookman win came in 1989, a 23-15 win. UCF has outscored the Wildcats 326-77 during the eight-game winning streak.

For a second consecutive week severe weather delayed the start of a Knights home game. A thunder storm hit the area 13 minutes before kickoff, causing the stadium to be emptied and resulting in a 60 minute delay. The game finally kicked at 7:30 p.m.

Running back Isaiah Bowser had a huge night for UCF, rushing for four touchdowns in the first half. That tied the single-game school record for rushing touchdowns (Alex Haynes in 2001, Kevin Smith twice in 2007 and Darriel Mack in 2018). Although he did not play in the second half and finished the game with 59 yards rushing, Bowser now has 231 yards in his first two games with five touchdowns on the season.

Speaking of Bowser, his 172 yards rushing against Boise State last week was the 27th highest total in UCF history. Kevin Smith holds the schools record with a 320 yard night against Alabama-Birmingham in 2007. Smith has seven of the 15 highest totals in school history and is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,679 yards (2005-07). Bowser is a graduate transfer from Northwestern, who ran for 1300 yards in three years.

Bowser’s 17-yard touchdown run and Dillon Gabriel’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Johnson – both in the first quarter – marked the 52nd consecutive game that the Knights had at least one touchdown run and one touchdown pass in the same game. It is the longest active streak in college football.

With his 322 passing yards in just two and a half quarters, Gabriel now has 7,863 yards in his career and has moved past Blake Bortles (7,598) for fifth place on the UCF All-Time List. His 25 completions also gave him 534 for his career, moving him past Steven Moffett (509) for sole possession of sixth place on the career list.

The 350-member Bethune-Cookman Marching Band, which has been ranked as the #1 marching band among historically black colleges for the last three years, delighted the UCF fans with their halftime show that featured a patriotic theme on the 20th anniversary of 9-11.

With 671 yards of total offense against Bethune-Cookman, the Knights have now gained 1244 yards in two games – an average of 632 yards per game. What is more impressive is the fact that it has been a truly balanced attack. In two games so far, the Knights are averaging 272.5 yards rushing and 349.6 yards passing per contest.

Gus Malzahn’s team will take its show for the next two week. UCF will travel Louisville next Friday night with a 730 p.m. kick on ESPN against the Cardinals and will have a bye week before playing at Navy on Oct. 2. That game will be televised the CBS Sports Network. The Navy game will be the American Athletic Conference opener for the Knights.