Two teams entered Orlando on Saturday, but only one could emerge victorious in the vaunted rivalry formerly known as the Civil Conflict.
In the end, it was Bob Diaco and UConn who came out on top, using a strong offensive showing power past UCF 40-13. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs threw for 256 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-22 passing and ran for an additional touchdown for the Huskies, who reached the 40-point mark for the first time since a 45-10 victory over Memphis in their 2013 regular-season finale.
It was a dominating performance all the way through for UConn, who led 40-3 after three quarters on its way to a resounding win in the latest chapter in the storied history of this faux rivalry.
More importantly for the Huskies, they’re 3-3 overall and 1-1 in AAC play, which means they could be playing some meaningful football games down the stretch for the first time in what must feel like an eternity for UConn fans.
The Huskies have not been to bowl game since making an appearance in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. It was a simpler time when the Big East still existed in football and recently deposed Maryland head coach Randy Edsall was still patrolling the sidelines in Connecticut. However, UConn had gone 15-33 in the four seasons since prior to this season.
But it looks like the Huskies may have turned a corner under Diaco, who just might end up being able to coach as well as he’s able to make up rivalries with schools over 1,000 miles away. UConn is still several wins away from bowl eligibility, but that fact that they’re in the conversation to make a bowl game at all is quite staggering given how bad they were just one year ago, when they finished with a dreadful 2-10 record.
The Knights, on the other hand, are trending in the exact opposite direction.
UCF had won at least nine games in four out of the five seasons prior to this year, but this season quickly went to hell in a handbasket for George O’Leary and Co.
AAC title aspirations turned into aspirations of bowl eligibility, which have now turned into aspirations of winning a single game this year.
Everything that could go wrong for the Knights seemingly has this season, leaving them at 0-6 and desperate to find a win during the second half of the year.
Just yesterday, O’Leary stepped down as UCF’s interim athletic director (that had to be around the 10th most noteworthy college football news of Monday), but gave no indication that he plans on hanging up his whistle at the end of the season.
His contract runs through 2020, but it’s very hard to imagine that he sticks around until then. It’s hard to predict what will happen the rest of the way for the Knights, but there’s certainly still a chance that 2015 ends of being the final year of O’Leary’s coaching career.
It’s been a rapid fall from grace for the 69-year-old coach, who has seen his team go spiraling down while their faux rival 1,200 miles to the north have seemingly started to things around.