HONOLULU – Nevada proved Central Florida wasn’t the only team to have an amazing turnaround this season.
Jeff Rowe scored on a 4-yard naked bootleg in overtime to lead the Wolf Pack to a 49-48 victory over the Golden Knights in the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday night.
UCF kicker Matt Prater, who had three field goals during the game, missed the tying extra point wide right, giving the Nevada the win and sending Wolf Pack players running on the field as stunned Central Florida looked on.
B.J. Mitchell ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns, and Robert Hubbard had 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns for the Wolf Pack (9-3), who finished with their best season since 1996 and spoiled Central Florida’s bowl debut.
“We knew it was going to be a hard fight,” Hubbard said. “The guys just never gave up and we survived. We had an amazing comeback. It’s a Cinderella season for us as well.”
UCF’s Brandon Marshall caught a 16-yard pass that tied the game at 42 with 55 seconds left. The score capped a four-play, 48-yard drive that took just 37 seconds.
Prater booted a 46-yard field goal with 1:32 left to draw UCF to 42-35, and the Golden Knights recovered the onside kick with no time-outs left and setting up Marshall’s dramatic catch that sent the game into overtime.
“I guess it hurts a little more because this is my last game,” said Marshall, who earned MVP honors for his team with 11 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
Trailing 32-28, the Wolf Pack took the lead on Hubbard’s 5-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Nevada scored again on Rowe’s 7-yard scoring pass to Travis Branzell for a 42-32 lead with 3:18 remaining.
Earlier this season, the Golden Knights (8-5) ended what was the nation’s longest Division I-A losing streak at 17 games. After going 0-11 last year, they were trying to tie the 1940 Stanford team for the second-biggest one-season turnaround in NCAA football history.
“It feels like a bad dream. To lose like this is unbelievable,” said Jason Peters, who had 44 yards rushing for the Golden Knights.
“They should feel bad. That’s what winning and losing is all about,” coach George O’Leary said. “You put in so much time and when you do lose a game, it hurts.”
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