Page 1





MEMPHIS, Tenn. - UCF’s memorable season came to a close in a 10-3 loss to Mississippi State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Mississippi State’s win in the Liberty Bowl was the kind of game coach Sylvester Croom’s mentor would have loved. Playing at the site Paul “Bear” Bryant’s final game 25 years ago, the Bulldogs used power running and a dominant defense to beat UCF 10-3 on Saturday and earn a milestone win for the once dormant program. Anthony Dixon powered in from the 1 for the winning touchdown with 1:54 to go and most valuable player Derek Pegues picked off two passes in a game featuring anemic offenses and 17 punts. The Bulldogs (8-5) kept the Knights (10-4) out of the end zone and Kevin Smith from breaking the single-season rushing record. The junior finished with 119 yards, leaving him 61 shy of Barry Sanders’ mark of 2,628 yards set for Oklahoma State in 1988. “I was trying to find the holes, but they were playing faster than us,” said Smith. It was the lowest scoring Liberty Bowl since Penn State beat Tulane 9-6 in 1979, but the pro-Mississippi State record crowd of 63,816 was rewarded for its pa�ence as Dixon and the Bulldogs offense came alive late in the fourth quarter. Croom, in his fourth season with Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs have played this way all year, resurrec�ng a program that hadn’t won more than three games in six seasons. As the Bulldogs did in big wins over Auburn, Kentucky and Alabama this season, they concentrated on the running game - both on offense and defense. Smith found the going difficult in the second half and finished with an average of 3.4 yards per carry a�er rushing for 188.3 yards per game during the regular season. Dixon finished with 86 yards and became the seventh Bulldogs runner to go over 1,000 yards (1,066). But like the rest of the Bulldogs, he was ineffec�ve much of the game. The teams were �ed 3-3 at hal�ime, mostly due to conserva�ve play-calling. Neither team converted a third down in the first half (0 for 16) as Mississippi State was held to 84 total yards and UCF to 79. Israel had 12 yards passing and two intercep�ons by hal�ime and Mississippi State’s Wes Carroll had 15 yards and an intercep�on. UCF also didn’t get much help from kicker Michael Torres, who gave the Knights a 3-0 lead in the second quarter with a 45-yard field goal, but missed from 32 and 37 in the second half. “I think those missed field goals were big momentum breakers,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. “Give Mississippi State credit. They fought hard and didn’t turn the ball over. That usually means you’re going to come up with a close win like that.” Mississippi State finished with 199 total yards and Blake McAdams �ed the Liberty Bowl record with 11 punts. But the Bulldogs came up with just enough big plays a�er Keith Fitzhugh picked off Israel’s pass at the Mississippi State 41 with 5:47 le�. Carroll, pulled the series before, returned and responded with two rushes for 17 yards and two comple�ons for 15 yards. All went for first downs and spurred a 10-play, 59-yard drive that consumed 3:53 and finally led to a touchdown. Pegues, fi�ngly, made the final key defensive play, knocking down a fourthdown pass on UCF’s final drive. The Bulldogs held the Knights to 219 yards and forced four turnovers. The junior safety gave Mississippi State two excellent opportuni�es with intercep�ons in the first 30 minutes, returning the ball to UCF’s 6 and 38. The safety’s first pick set up a 22-yard field goal by Adam Carlson in the second quarter.

A total of 63,816 fans stormed through the gates for the 2007 AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Johnell Neal gets in the way of this Wesley Carrol pass intended inte for Tony Burks, hauling it in for a first-quarter intercep�on. 202


AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL POSTGAME NOTES • UCF finished 2007 with a 10-4 record, marking the most wins in a season in program history. • UCF witnessed its school-record seven-game winning streak come to an end. • Junior running back Kevin Smith eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the 13th �me this season with a 12-yard carry in the third quarter. He rushed 17 �mes for 77 yards in the opening half and 18 �mes for 42 yards in the final half for 119 total in the game. • Smith finished the season in second on the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision single-season rushing list with 2,567 yards. He reached that figure on 450 carries for an average of 5.70 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Smith posted a 183.4 yardsper-game average and 29 rushing touchdowns this year. • Smith now has 4,679 career rushing yards in three seasons for UCF. He entered the 2007 campaign with 2,112 yards in his first two years in Orlando. • Junior Johnell Neal picked off his sixth pass of the season, tying Joe Burne� for the team and Conference USA leads. The intercep�on was the Knights’ 24th of the season, which is the second most in the FBS this season (Cincinna� a�er its bowl game had 26). • Neal and Burne� are the first Knight teammates to pick off at least six passes in the same season. The six intercep�ons are career highs for both cornerbacks and are the second most in a single-season by any Knight. • Junior safety Sha’reff Rashad registered his first career sack in the second quarter. With seven first-half tackles, Rashad surpassed 100 on the season. Rashad is the first Knight since 2003 to register 100 tackles in a season (Peter Sands, 113). • Rashad’s three tackles for a loss were also a career-high in a game. Rashad finished the game with nine tackles and 103 for the season. • Junior safety Jason Venson had a game-high 11 tackles, which �ed a season-high he set in a win at NC State in the 2007 opener. • The UCF defense fense held MSU to just 39 passing yards. The Black and Gold’s previous season-low was 144 yards vs. Southern Miss.

• Senior Michael Torres extended his streak of consecu�ve makes to 16 on the season with his 45-yard field goal in the second quarter. His school-record streak was snapped when he missed from 32 yards in the third quarter. His previous miss was from 31 yards out against East Carolina in the Knights’ fi�h game of the season on Oct. 6. • True freshman Blake Clingan’s first quarter punt of 55 yards was a season long. He completed his a�ernoon with six punts for a 42.83 average. • The three points scored by the Knights were the fewest in a first half and a game this season. • The Knights held Mississippi State to 10 points, the lowest by a UCF opponent in 2007.

BOX SCORE UCF Mississippi St.

0 0

3 3

0 0

0 7


3 10

2nd 11:49 UCF Torres 45 field goal 6:02 MSU Carlson 22 field goal 4th 1:54 MSU Dixon 1 run (Carlson kick) FIRST DOWNS RUSHES-YARDS (NET) PASSING YDS (NET) Passes A�-Comp-Int TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS Fumble Returns-Yards Punt Returns-Yards Kickoff Returns-Yards Intercep�on Returns-Yards Punts (Number-Avg) Fumbles-Lost Penal�es-Yards Possession Time Third-Down Conversions Fourth-Down Conversions Red-Zone Scores-Chances Sacks By: Number-Yards

UCF 13 47-131 88 24-10-3 71-219 0-0 6-54 1-6 1--3 6-42.8 2-1 3-25 31:08 4 of 17 0 of 1 0-2 1-12

MSU 10 41-160 39 20-8-1 61-199 0-0 2-5 2-29 3-45 11-34.9 0-0 5-45 28:52 2 of 13 0 of 0 2-3 3-17

RUSHING: UCF-SMITH, Kevin 35-119; ISRAEL, Kyle 11-13; FRANCIS, Cur�s 1-(-1). Mississippi State-Anthony Dixon 24-86; Tony Burks 2-25; Wesley Carroll 6-21; Chris�an Ducre 6-20; Jamayel Smith 1-5; Brandon Hart 1-4; TEAM 1-(-1). PASSING: UCF-ISRAEL, Kyle 10-24-3-88. Mississippi State-Wesley Carroll 8-18-139; Michael Henig 0-2-0-0. RECEIVING: UCF-SMITH, Kevin 3-12; ROSS, Rocky 2-27; RABAZINSKI, C. 2-26; WATTERS, Brian 2-13; AIKEN, Kamar 1-10. Mississippi State-Chris�an Ducre 310; Jamayel Smith 2-7; Anthony Dixon 1-10; Brandon Hart 1-8; Tony Burks 1-4. INTERCEPTIONS: UCF-NEAL, Johnell 1-(-3). Mississippi State-Derek Pegues 2-45; Keith Fitzhugh 1-0. FUMBLES: UCF-BURNETT, Joe 1-0; SMITH, Kevin 1-1. Mississippi State-None. Stadium: Liberty Bowl A�endance: 63816


202-203 - Libery Bowl Recap  

2007 AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL A total of 63,816 fans stormed through the gates for the 2007 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Johnell Neal gets in the way...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you