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Replay: Knights Lower the Boom in Boise

by John Heisler

UCF’s football team had all kinds of potential reasons—some real, some maybe a little manufactured--for losing as the sun set Saturday night at Boise State.

Consider them all:
--The blue turf at Albertsons Stadium where the Broncos had lost only 15 times since 2000 while compiling the second-best homefield record in the country (behind only Oklahoma)

--The reality Boise State had won 22 consecutive home openers

--The five-hour flight from Orlando to Boise, a journey of such length that the Knights took the unusual step of staying in Boise after the game and rising early Sunday to fly home in order to keep bodies on some sort of normal schedule

--The Knights fell behind enough in their travel Friday that they scratched their planned walk-thru on the blue turf—and that’s after boarding their chartered outbound plane in a complete downpour

--The dogged Boise State defense that limited the UCF offense--that had managed eight touchdowns nine days ago against Kent State--without one for the first 58 minutes Saturday

--Just plain bad luck on two interceptions in the red zone, both on tipped passes that easily could have been scores

--For good measure a third miss in the red zone when Jordan McDonald was stopped on fourth and one out of the Wildcat formation on a play that has been almost automatic in terms of success dating back to Isaiah Bowser a year ago. 

--Poor UCF starting field position much of the night, thanks to Boise State punts of 50, 54, 50 and 53 yards that forced the Knights to start drives from their own three-, 16-, seven- and 14-yard lines. 

Somehow the Knights fought through all of that for an 18-16 win thanks to four field goals by Colton Boomer—two of them from at least 50 yards (only one other Knight has done that) and the winner from 40 yards out as time expired.


“It’s our turf now,” said one Knight player as the UCF team strode back into its locker room after pregame warmups.

“Same goal, different location,” suggested defensive lineman Lee Hunter.

“Get ready to go fast,” challenged offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw, “Get after their butts from the first snap. This is going to be a physical, physical game. 

“Nothing bothers us, no matter what.”

“It’s about us,” said quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. “This is the next one.”

Added offensive line coach Herb Hand, “Who cares about blue turf, or meeting in a tent in the parking lot or the long plane ride or the fact it’s hot.

“They still gotta defend us.”
Finished head coach Gus Malzahn, “We don’t flinch. I don’t care what happens. Bring your A game. If something bad happens, so what? Next play. Let’s get after them.”

After the game began on a promising note on a first-play Plumlee-to-Kobe Hudson bomb for 49 yards, the early Knight misfortune began two plays later when a potential scoring throw to Hudson tipped off his hands and instead was intercepted at the Boise State three. That would be the first of three trips into the red zone that produced no points.

UCF’s offense had produced 100 yards before the first period was half over. The first of Boomer’s three-pointers—this one from 50--put the visitors ahead with 7:27 to go in that opening quarter. Xavier Townsend punctuated that possession with a 39-yard jet sweep gain.

Boise State came right back with a 72-yard, five-play touchdown drive—more than half of it on a 38-yard catch and run by running back Ashton Jeanty, who finished with 115 rushing yards and 97 receiving yards.

By the three-minute mark of the first period Plumlee already had 100 yards passing, after a 20-yard completion to RJ Harvey and a 29-yarder to Javon Baker. But UCF also squandered another opportunity when McDonald’s fourth-down attempt came up short at the Boise State 13.

Plumlee ran for 17 between throwing to Hudson for 17 and Baker for 23. Boomer’s 33-yard three-pointer finished an 82-yard drive and left the Knights behind by a point.

The Broncos added their own 56-yard field goal with 3:14 until half—before Boomer connected from 55 at 1:01. It was 10-9 for Boise State at the break.


“We’re gonna get right after them and go,” said Hinshaw at halftime. “We gotta pick it up on third down. We were one for six on third down and still it’s a one-point game.

“It’s all on us. Go out there and strain and do what you do better than they do it.”

Added Plumlee, ”We are winning this football game. Just do your job.”

Finished Malzahn, “Run the football, and we’ll win the game.”

The Knights had run for 96 yards in the first half –and then on the first possession of the third period they ran seven straight time for 75 yards – only to see an apparent TD throw at the goal line to Baker end up in enemy hands.

A little more than a half had been played and, instead of 21 points out of those red-zone chances, they instead ended in none. Even the most ardent UCF fan at that point had to wonder if the Knights simply had drawn a bad hand Saturday.

The UCF defense held the Broncos at bay—over one stretch holding the home team scoreless for more than 30 minutes of clock time.

UCFs first final-period possession, highlighted by a monster 53-yard pass play to Hudson, this time produced the Knights’ lone TD—a Harvey rush from five yards out.

With the visitors now leading 15-10, Boise responded with a 75-yard, 12-play drive of its own—thanks in part to a fourth-down-and-two conversion from the UCF 32.

But UCF wasn’t done, with 1:43 remaining. Plumlee ran for 10 and hit Alec Holler for 16 and Hudson for 11. Then Harvey gained 11 and Plumlee another seven.

The Knights reached the 22, let the clock run to three seconds and then survived multiple timeouts before Boomer’s winner from 40 that weaved just a bit before coming back inside the right upright.


Anyone who follows UCF and Malzahn knows that the head coach’s signature move is “boom” to signify success in games or recruiting.

When your kicker’s last name is Boomer, maybe it’s no coincidence how the Knights’ victory ended Saturday. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of you guys,” said Malzahn to his team.

“Let me just tell you—we didn’t play our best. There was a lot of adversity. Very few teams can win on the road. You beast a real program tonight, a team that has lost only 15 times here since 2000.

“You did it the hard way and in my experience the hard victories like that pay off at the end. Now, no matter what happens, we believe and we know we can get it done.”

Malzahn talked all during the preseason about how he expected this first season in the Big 12 to produce plenty of close games. Little did he know how quickly that prediction would come into play:

Boom, boom, boom, boom.

On Saturday night, that was just enough.