BYU accepts invitation to play Central Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl

Cougars will meet Knights on Dec. 22

Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel, far right, throws a pass against Cincinnati during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

BYU is going bowling.

The No. 14 Cougars, who watched their New Year’s Six bowl hopes vanish with their loss at Coastal Carolina two weeks ago, have accepted an invitation to play Central Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl.

BYU (10-1) will meet UCF (6-3) of the American Athletic Conference on Dec. 22 at 5 p.m. MST at FAU Stadium.

Considering the Cougars almost lost their season back in August, when all but two opponents canceled, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said he’s grateful for having played 11 games and looking forward to a 12th.

“It just worked out really well that we were able to play football and just really thankful that these guys are able to do that,” Sitake said during a virtual news conference. “In a time when bowl games are getting canceled and teams are opting out from playing the bowl games, I just really appreciate the opportunity for our guys to play one more time together.”

The Cougars are coming off of a 28-14 victory over San Diego State at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday for the program’s first 10-win season since 2011. Just after that game, senior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi got his first inkling of what was to come.

Kaufusi said athletic director Tom Holmoe gave him a heads-up that he was lining up a bowl game. When the news was made official, Kaufusi was thrilled.

“I was just really ecstatic about that and just really excited about another chance to play with my team,” Kaufusi said. “... It’ll be fun to travel out to Florida and have some warmer weather, a lot warmer than last weekend. The team is really excited to play, prove ourselves again and be able to work and fix some of the things we have been lacking the last couple of weeks.”

The Knights, based in Orlando, held off rival South Florida 58-46 in its last outing Nov. 27.

Both team have previously met twice, splitting results. BYU won the first matchup 24-17 in Provo in 2011, but UCF won the most recent game in 2014, 31-24, in Orlando.

Tickets for the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl are expected to be available soon. The game has been approved for 6,000 fans, at 20% stadium capacity, and will have COVID-19 protocols in place.

While some players would have liked to have added a game this week, along with playing in a bowl game (at lease, that’s what Sitake said), the Cougars, including quarterback Zach Wilson, are excited to start preparing for the Knights.

“It’s going to be warm and it’s just another opportunity — I think that’s the best thing that we can have,” Wilson said. “What a great team we’re going against as well, it’s going to be an explosive offense we’re against on the other side. We’re going to have everything put together to play well against these guys. They’re a good team.”