The UCF Knights know where they'll spend bowl season, but who will they face Dec. 29 in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.?
Liberty Bowl and Southeastern Conference officials were still trying to decide Saturday night among four teams: Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama.
"I don't think any of the four would be a bad selection," said Perry Winstead, the Liberty Bowl's chief financial officer. "Every one of them has story lines, and that's what's great about this year's game."
On a day filled with dazzling runs by UCF RB Kevin Smith and some impressive passes by Tulsa QB Paul Smith, the Knights' Joe Burnett provided one of the most electric plays. His 83-yard punt return for a touchdown gave UCF a 10-0 lead after the extra point.
Tulsa's Tanner Antle grabbed onto Burnett's jersey and nearly pulled Burnett to the ground, but the Eustis High graduate spun 360 degrees and then just kept running. "I wasn't going down easily," Burnett said. "I know that it was a big game. It was a championship game where you've got to go all-out. You've got to leave everything you've got on the field. I would've regretted it if I would've went down on that play."
Afterward, Tulsa Coach Todd Graham said he instructed his punter not to kick in Burnett's direction. In the 2005 league championship game against Tulsa, Burnett returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown.
The Golden Hurricane had three false-start penalties and saw an extra-point try by Jarod Tracy clang off the right upright -- all in the first quarter.
Five more penalties followed, including a 12-men-on-the-field foul that negated a go-ahead touchdown early in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, Tulsa had first-and-goal from the UCF 1-yard line and failed to score any points.
"I thought we did a poor job today coaching," Graham said.
'D' hangs tough
After allowing 23 points and 290 passing yards in the first half, the UCF defense didn't allow a point in the second half.
Credit goes to the Knights' secondary, which finished the game with three interceptions -- two by CB Johnell Neal, one by FS Jason Venson. The defense has recorded an interception in seven consecutive games. The three pickoffs gave UCF a total of 23 interceptions this season, breaking the old school record of 20, set in 1980 and 1992.
Rockin' to Zombie Nation
The announced crowd of 44,128 shook Bright House Networks Stadium whenever the public-address system blared Zombie Nation's Kernkraft 400. The song played seven times Saturday afternoon.
ESPN enlisted the help of some familiar faces for its broadcast Saturday. Former UCF QB Daunte Culpepper introduced the offense, while former UCF DB Asante Samuel introduced the defense.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times