Football Game Notes: Virginia Tech

ORLANDO -UCF begins its 25th season of football in front of a national audience on Sunday, August 31 at 3 p.m. as the Golden Knights venture to Blacksburg, Va., to face No. 9/10 Virginia Tech. The ESPN telecast will mark the first of three games for UCF vs. BIG EAST competition in 2003.

The Golden Knights begin their Silver Anniversary season as members of the Mid-American Conference, after completing their first year in the conference in 2002. UCF finished second in the MAC East Division, ending the year 6-2 in conference play, with losses to only MAC East Division Champion Marshall (26-21) and MAC West Division Champion Toledo (27-24).

UCF ended the 2002 campaign 7-5 overall and winners of its last four games. Virginia Tech completed 2002 with a mark of 10-4, including a win over Air Force in the San Francisco Bowl. The Hokies are ranked No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and ninth in the Associated Press Top 25.

Celebrating 25 Years!
From the humble beginnings of borrowed equipment to the bright lights of national television, UCF is proudly celebrating its Silver Anniversary of football in 2003.

The first game left plenty to be desired, as a heavy downpour prior to kickoff flooded a cow pasture turned football field in Dade City, Fla. A soggy crowd, exaggerated at 1,000, watched as the upstarts from Orlando blanked St. Leo, 21-0.

Just 25 years later, fans from across the nation will tune in to watch the Knights' season opener at Virginia Tech on ESPN Aug. 31.

Series Notes
UCF and Virginia Tech are meeting for the third time, including the second meeting in Blacksburg. The Hokies are 2-0 all-time vs. the Golden Knights, including a 44-21 win at the Florida Citrus Bowl in 2000, along with a 46-14 victory in 2001 at home.

In the 2001 meeting in Blacksburg, UCF led 7-0 after the first quarter before the Hokies scored 19 straight points in the second quarter en route to the win.

The largest crowd ever to witness a UCF home game (50,220) came to watch the two teams battle in 2000 in Orlando.

UCF is 0-4 in games vs. schools from the BIG EAST. Last season, UCF dropped a 38-35 decision to Syracuse in Orlando. The Golden Knights led 21-3 early in the game before the Orangemen rallied for the victory.


UCF Tabbed Third In The MAC East
Based on totals from the 42 MAC News Media Association voters, the 2003 Mid-American Conference football season will be the closest competition since the league's divisional play began in 1997. For the first time, Northern Illinois has been tabbed as the favorite to win the West Division and walk off with the league trophy following the championship game December 4, it was announced by the league office.

The East Division has three teams separated by just six points as Miami (Ohio) was predicted as the division champion with 254 points. Marshall was tabbed second (253) and UCF garnered third place with 248 points. The Golden Knights received 11 first-place votes.

UCF performed well in its first season in the MAC last year, finishing second in the East Division with a 6-2 mark. The only blemishes on the Golden Knights' schedule were to the two teams that faced off for the 2002 MAC Championship, Toledo and Marshall.

Northern Illinois, who captured a share of the West title last year (tied with Toledo) and in 2001 (tied with Toledo and Ball State), is the favorite from 15 teams to win the championship game.

Schneider On Davey O'Brien List
The Davey O'Brien Foundation announced the preseason watch list for the 2003 Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award and UCF senior Ryan Schneider was one of the 42 candidates named to the list. The Davey O'Brien Award is given annually to the nation's top college quarterback.

The O'Brien Award is the oldest and most prestigious award in the country for college quarterbacks and is named in honor of the late Davey O'Brien, the All-American and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for Texas Christian University who led the Horned Frogs to the 1938 national championship.

Schneider enters the 2003 campaign as the active leader in college football with 69 career touchdown passes. The senior is also second among active players with 9,027 career passing yards. Schneider is poised to eclipse former UCF All-American Daunte Culpepper in the UCF record books in both career passing yards and touchdowns.

In 2002, Schneider finished third in the nation with 31 touchdown passes. The UCF signalcaller also ranked fourth in the NCAA in pass efficiency and fifth in total offense.

Schneider ended the 2002 campaign with 3,770 passing yards, a new single-season record at UCF. He also broke the single-game passing yardage mark with 440 passing yards vs. Syracuse last year.

Bigby On Nagurski Watch List
The Charlotte Touchdown Club and the Football Writers Association of America announced the 2003 watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy naming UCF strong safety Atari Bigby as a candidate for the post-season honor. The award is given annually to recognize the top defensive player in college football.

Bigby, who was named as an All-MAC First-Team Defensive selection last season, is one of 36 finalists as identified by the nearly 800 members of the FWAA. He enters his junior season with the Golden Knights and is coming off a sophomore year in which he registered over 100 tackles.

The committee will select a defensive player of the week during the season, with five finalists then being nominated for the award following the 2003 campaign. The trophy will be presented to the winner at a banquet in Charlotte on Dec. 8 and will mark the 11th consecutive year that the FWAA has presented the award.

The award is named after Hall of Famer and University of Minnesota and Chicago Bears star Bronko Nagurski.

UCF On TV In 2003
UCF fans will have plenty of opportunities to view the Golden Knights on television this season. Six games have been scheduled to air on ESPN, ESPN 2 or Sunshine Network with additional games pending.

UCF opens the season on ESPN August 31 at No. 9/10 Virginia Tech. The Golden Knights also host Marshall, November 19 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN for the first ever national television appearance at home for UCF.

Sunshine Network announced that four UCF football games will be televised live this season on Florida's largest regional sports network.

Additional UCF games may be added to Sunshine's schedule pending determination of the conference-produced "MAC Game of the Week" telecast schedule.

Action kicks off with UCF taking on Syracuse live on September 20, at noon (live in Orlando/Melbourne/Daytona Beach TV market only; repeats statewide at 11 p.m.).

Other UCF games on Sunshine's schedule include: at Kent State on Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. (airs live statewide and repeats Oct. 1, at 10 a.m.); at Ohio on Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. (live in Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne & Tampa/St. Pete TV markets only; repeats statewide 11 p.m.); and at West Virginia on Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. (live in Orlando/Melbourne/Daytona Beach & Tampa/St. Pete TV markets only; repeats statewide 11 p.m.).

Play-by-play announcer Rick Peckham will be alongside analyst Brady Ackerman for UCF's games against Syracuse, Kent State and West Virginia.

Schneider Closing In On Daunte
Senior quarterback Ryan Schneider is closing in on several of former UCF All-American Daunte Culpepper's school records. Schneider already broke Culpepper's single-game yardage mark last season vs. Syracuse (440 yards) and single-season record (3,770 yards).

With 69 career touchdown passes, Schneider is the active leader among NCAA quarterbacks and is just 15 shy of Culpepper's mark of 84. The senior signal caller is also the top returning player in the nation in pass efficiency (151.62).

Schneider is also second among active players in career passing yards with 9,027. With 2,386 passing yards in 2003, Schneider will eclipse Culpepper as UCF's all-time leader in passing yards.

The Streak
With a touchdown pass vs. Virginia Tech, Ryan Schneider will tie Daunte Culpepper's school record with at least one touchdown pass in 22 consecutive games. The last time Schneider did not throw a touchdown was Sept. 8, 2001 at Syracuse.

An Offensive Machine In 2002
Mike Kruczek's offense was a machine in 2002, featuring a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers.

Ryan Schneider finished the 2002 campaign with school records in passing yards (3,770) and touchdown passes (31). The 31 touchdown passes were third in the nation.

Junior tailback Alex Haynes became just the fifth back in UCF history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark last year with 1,038 yards. Haynes, who ranked sixth in the MAC in rushing, averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry.

Doug Gabriel and Jimmy Fryzel formed the top receiving tandem in school history in 2002. Gabriel finished the year with a school record 1,237 receiving yards while Fryzel totaled 1,126 yards. Gabriel was a fifth round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 2003 NFL Draft while Fryzel signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins.

Back-To-Back 1,000 Yard Seasons
Alex Haynes is looking to become just the second running back in UCF history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons in 2003. Last year, Haynes raced for 1,038 yards, the third best figure in single-season school history.

Only Marquette Smith has accomplished that feat with 1,511 rushing yards in 1995 and 1,058 yards in 1994. Those totals rank Smith first and fourth respectively on the single-season rushing list at UCF.

For his career, Haynes is already eighth at UCF with 1,728 yards. He is also third with eight career 100-yard games.

UCF Head Coach Mike Kruczek
UCF head coach Mike Kruczek is known as one of the top offensive minds in the nation and his teams have proven it. Entering his sixth season at the helm, Kruczek is 33-23 and has finished with a winning record in four of the five years he has been head coach at UCF.

Since taking over as the head coach of the program in 1998, Kruczek's teams have finished in the top 15 nationally in passing offense. The Golden Knights ranked sixth in 2002 and ninth in 2001 in the NCAA. In Kruczek's first year at the helm, he led UCF to a sixth place showing in NCAA passing offense.

Prior to being named the head coach of the Golden Knight program in 1998, Kruczek served as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at UCF since 1985.

UCF has had a quarterback finish in the top 20 nationally in total offense each of the past seven years, including three in the top five. A Golden Knight receiver has ranked in the top 20 in the nation in six of the past seven seasons, including four in the top 10.

Kruczek, a former All-American quarterback at Boston College, won two Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1978 and 1979.

Aerial Attack
Since 1996, UCF is among the nation's top passing offenses in several categories. The Golden Knights have thrown for 23,614 yards, seventh among all teams since 1996. UCF has also tossed 31 300-yard games (sixth) and five 400-yard games (12th) since the ‘96 campaign.

So Close
Despite seven wins, including a 6-2 mark in the MAC East Division to place UCF second, the 2002 campaign could have been much better.

The Golden Knights lost four games by five points or less, including two vs. BCS schools.

In the season opener, UCF lost 27-24 at No. 24 Penn State while Syracuse escaped with a 38-35 win in Orlando on Nov. 2. UCF once led 21-3 vs. the Orangemen before falling to defeat.

The Golden Knights also lost to both teams that played in the MAC Championship game by a combined eight points. Marshall defeated UCF 26-21 in Huntington and Toledo won 27-24 in Orlando.

UCF vs. Ranked Teams
UCF is 0-11 all-time vs. ranked opponents. The Golden Knights have faced six opponents in the AP Top 10 since the 1995 season.

UCF has faced Virginia Tech twice as the Hokies were ranked eighth in both meetings. In the 2001 game in Orlando, Va. Tech became the highest ranked team ever to play UCF at the Citrus Bowl.

The last time UCF played a ranked opponent the Golden Knights lost, 27-24 at No. 24 Penn State.

UCF vs. AP Ranked Teams
Date Opp. Result
9/23/95 at #1 Florida State * L, 46-14
9/13/97 at # 6 Nebraska L, 38-24
9/27/97 at #8 Auburn L, 41-14
9/4/99 #22 Purdue L, 47-13
9/11/99 at #4 Florida L, 58-27
9/18/99 at #12 Ga. Tech L, 41-10
9/25/99 at #11 Georgia L, 24-23
11/1/00 at #8 Va. Tech L, 44-21
9/1/01 at #19 Clemson L, 21-13
9/29/01 #8 Va. Tech L, 46-14
8/31/02 at #24 Penn State L, 27-24
* UCF was in Division I-AA

UCF In Season Openers
UCF is 14-10 all-time in season openers, including a 1-4 mark under Mike Kruczek. Over the last five years, the Golden Knights have played some of the nation's elite programs in the season opener including No. 24 Penn State, No. 19 Clemson, Georgia Tech and No. 22 Purdue. Four of the five games under Kruczek have been on the road to start the season, including a 64-30 victory at Louisiana Tech on Sept. 5, 1998, the first coaching win for Kruczek.

Scouting Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech enters the 2003 season ranked No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25.

Several Tech players have garnered preseason honors, including tailback Kevin Jones, center Jake Grove and defensive end Nathaniel Adibi. Grove and Adibi were both named preseason All-Americans while Jones was a second-team preseason All-America honoree by The Sporting News.

At quarterback, the Hokies return junior Bryan Randall and also welcome redshirt freshman Marcus Vick. Randall threw for 2,134 yards in 2002 while Vick is the hyped younger brother of former Tech All-American Michael Vick.

Both quarterbacks will have the luxury of having Ernest Wilford at wide receiver. Wilford set a new school record with 51 catches a year ago.

Defensively, Tech returns nine starters, led by linebacker Vegas Robinson. A year ago, Robinson totaled 71 tackles despite missing three games.

Head coach Frank Beamer is the fifth winningest active coach in the nation with a career record of 159-92-4 in 22 seasons. Beamer has guided his alma mater to 10 consecutive bowl appearances.

Injury Report
Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), UCF team staff including coaches and trainers will only release certain information on an injury. UCF will only release if it is a lower body or upper body injury and the player's status for the upcoming game.
 

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