ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's not often that fans will wait outside
the locker room to cheer after a loss.
Then again, it's not often you go from 0-11 to 8-4 in just one
season and earn your school's first-ever bowl appearance.
This season has been funny that way for Central Florida.
UCF (8-4) formally accepted a bid Sunday to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl,
where the Golden Knights will meet Nevada (8-3) of the Western
Athletic Conference on Dec. 24. It's the first bowl game in UCF's
10-year football history.
"This bowl is an excellent reward for our student-athletes and
the coaching staff on a championship season," UCF athletic
director Steve Orsini said. "This is a trip of a lifetime for our
It's also not a bad consolation prize for a team that lost the
Conference USA championship game to Tulsa 44-27 on Saturday.
In coach George O'Leary's second season, the Golden Knights
snapped what was the nation's longest Division I-A losing streak at
17 games -- starting a stretch where they won eight of their next
"To me, spending Christmas playing football is probably the
best gift I can get," center Cedric Gagne-Marcoux said. "If I'm
not playing football on Christmas, I'm watching football. My
parents are at the table eating dinner and I'm in my room watching
"I've never been to one, and I've dreamed about it. That's why
I came to college. I wanted to get a chance to play in a bowl."
Not bad for a team that entered the season ranked near the
bottom of all 119 Division I-A teams in most preseason magazines,
then engineered a stirring turnaround that resulted in a division
title in C-USA and lured a school-record 51,978 people to watch
them play for their first-ever league championship.
A few thousand fans remained in the stands after Saturday's game
ended, chanting "U-C-F! U-C-F!'' And a couple hundred others
huddled near the team's locker room, just to applaud and cheer as
O'Leary and a couple players made their way into postgame
"I think that is a heck of a reward for a team that came from
where they came from last year," O'Leary said.
Now, his team has a chance to author the final chapter to their
"We went 0-11 last year, so we don't even look at stuff like [a
loss]," quarterback Steven Moffett said after the Tulsa game.
"It's just one loss. Last time we lost to Southern Miss, they
killed us, and we came back and won two games after that. So we're
going to do the same thing after this one."