Available 7 Days/Week       MON - FRI  8am - 7pm       SAT - SUN  10am – 6pm
Call us (754) 701-3300
Apply Now

UCF eyes chance to wrap up season with win in Gasparilla Bowl

Lokahi Pauole has spent the last five years bleeding black and gold for UCF football.

And like many of his teammates who are wrapping up their college careers Friday when the Knights (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) face Georgia Tech (6-6, 5-3 ACC) in the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl, this week has been a reflective time for the offensive lineman (ESPN, 6:30 p.m.).

“They always say there are a lot of first lasts,” Pauole said after the Knights wrapped up their final home practice before traveling to Tampa. “I’ve just been soaking it all in. I’ve just been walking myself through memory lane. I remember in June 2019, I was an 18-year-old kid, not knowing what was going on and now I’m about to move on to the next level.

“I’m excited for it and just taking it all in.”

When UCF takes the field at Raymond James Stadium, the Knights do so with most of their roster intact, a rarity today as teams are forced to deal with a growing number of players opting out of bowl games to transfer or prepare for the NFL.

“It speaks to the culture that Coach [Gus] Malzahn has built and the brotherhood that all our teammates have made that we want to play for each other and just end on the right note,” said fifth-year tight end Alec Holler.

National Signing Day memo to Big 12: Here comes UCF | Commentary

Added offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw: “We’ve got great players and really good kids. It’s exciting to coach them and you can see they’re excited to go win here for UCF.”

UCF will be without starting cornerback Corey Thornton, who entered the transfer portal last week and committed to Louisville. Georgia Tech will be without edge rusher Kyle Kennard (11 TFLs, 6 sacks) and safety Kenan Johnson (2 forced fumbles, interception), who entered the portal.

For Pauole, winning against the Yellow Jackets would be the perfect ending to his time at UCF.

“It would feel amazing to finish my college career off the right way,” he said. “Finish on the right side of things, and for the UCF program, just leave that momentum into their second year of the Big 12.”

Coaches: Malzahn, 3rd season at UCF, 24-15 (101-53 overall); Brent Key, 2nd season at Georgia Tech, 10-10 (10-10 overall).

Quick slant: This is the sixth meeting in the series, with Georgia Tech holding a 3-2 advantage with UCF having won the last two games, including a 27-10 victory in Orlando last season. In that game, the Knights rushed for 298 yards, with quarterback John Rhys Plumlee leading the way with 100 yards and a touchdown while special teams blocked David Shanahan’s punt and returned it for a 27-yard touchdown. … Former UCF and GT coach George O’Leary will be the honorary captain, taking part in the coin toss.

About UCF (6-6, 3-6 Big 12): Javon Baker needs 34 yards to become the first UCF receiver with 1,000 yards in a season since Marlon Williams in 2020. …UCF’s 27 sacks rank third in the Big 12, with the Knights recording at least one in every game except against Oklahoma State. … Edge rusher Tre’Mon Morris-Brash leads the conference in tackles for loss (18) and is second in sacks (8.5). … Redshirt senior Decorian Patterson is expected to start at cornerback for Thornton. Patterson has allowed 16 receptions on 30 throws this season with a touchdown.

About Georgia Tech (6-6, 5-3 ACC): Defensive back Jaylon King leads the team in interceptions (4), pass breakups (8) and forced fumbles (2). According to Pro Football Focus, he’s the sixth highest-graded safety in the ACC with an NFL passer rating against of 45. … Freshman receiver Eric Singleton Jr. leads the Yellow Jackets in receptions (47) and receiving yards (706) and his six receiving touchdowns are the third-most by a true freshman in a season behind Calvin Johnson (2004) and Ahmarean Brown (2019) with 7 apiece.

Knights’ Tre’Mon Morris-Brash a rarity among college football

3 things to watch

Establish ground game. UCF has been one of the best teams in the country when it comes to running, averaging 233 yards per game. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, has been one of the worst at stopping the run, allowing 225 yards per game. Getting running back RJ Harvey, who led the team with 1,296 yards, going early would help the Knights set an early tone.

Stop Yellow Jackets rushing attack. It’s no secret that UCF has struggled to stop the run. The Knights were last in the Big 12 in run defense (187 yards per game) and allowed nine players to rush for at least 100 yards. Georgia Tech is fueled by running back Jamal Haynes (931 yards) and King (648 yards), who have created havoc on the ground in the ACC.

Reboot the kicking game. After a solid start to the season, kicker Colton Boomer has struggled down the stretch. The sophomore has missed four of his last six field-goal attempts and failed to convert on two extra-point kicks, one of which was blocked.

Where: Raymond James Stadium

When: 6:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN; Radio: AM 740/FM 96.9 The Game, Sirius/XM 375

Weather: 66 degrees, 0% rain chance

Favorite: UCF 6.5 points

Online: orlandosentinel.com/knights; @osmattmurschel on X (Twitter).

#fortlauderdale, #fortlauderdalemortgage, #fortlauderdalemortgagelender, #fortlauderdalemortgagerates #fortlauderdalemortgagebroker