There’s no doubt Sept. 2, 2021, has become part of UCF’s history. It wasn’t just about the football team’s 21-point comeback to beat Boise State because it was so much more than a football game.
For 21 months, UCF fans waited for a chance to return to a full-capacity Bounce House. They counted down the days to the debut of new coach Gus Malzahn. They built up a ton of energy and waited to release it on a national stage against a brand — that like UCF — set it apart from others.
Tailgaters arrived early and students even earlier. The stadium was decked out in its finest colors and the buzz of college football’s true opening night was about the game in Orlando. Then it happened. The buildup. The lightning. The long delay. The 9:45 p.m. start. The 21-0 deficit. The big plays and comeback. The crowd who stuck around when the clock struck midnight. The celebration when the final play clinched a UCF win at 1:26 a.m. in the morning.
And the real beauty of Sept. 2 (and 3), 2021 is that everyone has their own version of what happened.
Students will tell the stories of racing inside the Bounce House to find the best seat only to exit when the pop of lightning struck shortly after 6 p.m. They took selfies and posted memories while making new friends as they counted down when they were allowed back inside the stadium, not caring how late the game would end. They were in it to win it no matter how long it took.
There were Knights who scattered across the campus seeking cover from the electrical show in the skies. They became weather specialists and analyzed radars and forecasts all guessing when or if a game would be played.
Inside locker rooms, coaches and players who were perhaps more eager than anyone to get the game started found themselves waiting and waiting, passing the time by sharing stories and creating memories that will stick with them long after they’ve hung up their uniforms.
The “Boise State game” will forever be a part of UCF history just like other iconic moments over the years.
Find a Knights fan who was there September 22, 1979, and they will have their version of that very first UCF football game against St. Leo.
In 1988, UCF beat the defending national champions of Division II, the Troy Trojans, in front of almost 32,000 at the Citrus Bowl. In what is known as the “Noise Penalty Game,” the Knights fans were penalized for being too loud.
Two years later, in 1990, UCF became the first school in FCS history to reach the playoffs in their first year of eligibility and then shocked unbeaten power Youngstown State. Daunte Culpepper’s debut in 1995 will forever be remembered as he completed his first 12 passes as a Knight.
Mention “The Alabama Game” and a UCF fan will tell you about Javier Beorlegui’s game-winning 37-yard field goal.
The 2005 season saw UCF play in its first ever conference title game in front of almost 52,000 and head to Hawaii for the program’s first bowl game.
In 2010 the Liberty Bowl is where the Knights took down Georgia.
There was the dream season in 2013 and the school’s first major bowl game and win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
Mention “The Hail Mary at ECU” and every UCF will remember Justin Holman’s pass and Breshad Perriman’s catch.
Perfection in 2017 and the many moments of that season which included Mike Hughes and “a reservation for six” against South Florida followed by a double-overtime thriller against Memphis in the conference title game and the sea of black and gold in Atlanta as UCF beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
In 2018, there will always be 4th and one at Memphis in the rain where Taj McGowan raced 79-yards for a touchdown as UCF roared back from down 16 points to extend their win streak to 19 on the way to 25.
And now there is “The Boise State Game” that has become part of our history. Years from now 100,000 may say they were there. Everyone will have a story, and everyone will know what you mean when someone says, “The Boise State Game.”
Those are the moments that make us fans.
We were there or we watched or listened as our history was made. The memories last forever and they remind us why we cheer and what makes us Knight Nation.
The only question now is, what is about to happen next?
The UCF Forum is a weekly series of opinion columns from faculty, staff and students who serve on a panel for a year. A new column is posted each Wednesday on UCF Today and then broadcast on WUCF-FM (89.9) between 7:50 and 8 a.m. Sunday. Opinions expressed are those of the columnists, and are not necessarily shared by the University of Central Florida.