College Football

In Cure Bowl, UCF returns to old stomping grounds; Arkansas State in 6th straight bowl game

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This story was compiled and written by University of Connecticut journalism students Molly Burkhardt and Daniela Marulanda, with information and statistics provided by ESPN, the University of Central Florida football website, Arkansas State University football website and the team’s twitter.

UCF (6-6, 4-4) looks to return to their old stomping grounds at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. to play Arkansas State (7-5. 7-1) in the second year of the AutoNation Cure Bowl Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m (CBS Sports Network)

UCF’s eighth bowl appearance will be played in the stadium the Knights played in for 27 years, before moving to Bright House Networks Stadium in 2007. “Bowlando” is the hashtag the Knights have chosen to promote the game on Twitter as they look to attract a large home crowd for the game.

“We’re thrilled to be in a bowl game,” UCF head coach Scott Frost said after accepting the Cure Bowl invitation. “Our guys have done a lot to earn a chance to play in the postseason. I think it’s wonderful that we get to play right here in the great city of Orlando.”

Arkansas State, which has a 7-5 overall record and 7-1 in the Sun Belt Conference, won the league title for the fifth time in six seasons. This will be the Red Wolves sixth straight bowl game and their first appearance in the Cure Bowl, according to the Red Wolves’

Their first appearance was in 2005 and they are (2-4) in Bowl games. Their last win in a Bowl Game was against Ball State.

“I’m extremely proud of our team and the way they fought through adversity this year, not only to win another Sun Belt Conference title, but also to earn an opportunity to compete in the Cure Bowl and finish our season on a high note against a great opponent from the American Athletic Conference,” said A-State head coach Blake Anderson after accepting the bid.

Adversity haunted Arkansas State which started their season 0-4, losing their fourth game against FCS rival Central Arkansas. After their shaky start, the Red Wolves won seven of their last eight games.

A-state’s offense averaged 27 points per game. Quarterback sophomore Justice Hansen had 2,514 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He had a 59 passage completion percentage, read to the Sun Belt Conference website.

“I am very familiar with the state of Florida and UCF, so I know this will be both a great destination and opponent for our team and fans. The Cure Bowl presents a strong matchup against a team from the American Athletic Conference,” said A-state Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir.

The game will be a defensive battle between these two teams. A-state was third in scoring defense in their conference, allowing 22 points on average per game.

ESPN rated redshirt defensive end Ja’von Rolland-Jones as the key player for the game. He has 11.5 sacks and is .5 sack away from setting the school record.

The Knights have claim to the American Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, Shaquem Griffin. The redshirt junior linebacker had 56 tackles this season, and led the conference with 11 sacks.

Griffin lost his left hand as a child after battling amniotic band syndrome since he was born. He has not let him stop him from playing football and says the hardest thing is convincing others he can do the job.

His twin brother and teammate Shaquill contributed to Central Florida’s strong defense with 60 tackles and 4 interceptions, according to the AAC website.

Central Florida’s defense ranked third in the conference for defensive scoring, with 36 of their touchdowns this season coming off the defense, according to the AAC website.

Going into the bowl game, the Knights are coming off a two game losing streak, closing out their season with a 31-48 loss at South Florida.

UCF’s Vice President and Athletic Director Danny White said in an interview with UCFKnights.com that the program is excited to be included in any bowl game, but the Cure Bowl is special.

“The Cure Bowl stands for something maybe a little more than most, to be a bowl that helps raise awareness and money for breast cancer. That’s as good a cause as you can find,” White said.

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