UCF KNIGHTS BOWL HISTORY
2007 AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL
MISSISSIPPI STATE UCF DECEMBER 29, 2007 LIBERTY BOWL MEMORIAL STADIUM
10 3 MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
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.
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