Central Florida built an early lead and held onto to it to down Clemson 24-20 in Knoxville, Tenn. Sunday en route to the DI-AA Final Four. UCF beat host Tennessee 30-17 and Clemson defeated South Carolina 29-7 Saturday to reach the quarterfinals.
Heavy rains left the fields soaked and interrupted the second half.
The Knights ran out to a 17-3 halftime lead, which they extended to 24-3 early in the second stanza. But the Tigers came charging back to put the result in jeopardy.
“It started pouring again and we started making some mental mistakes,” said UCF president Jason Ross. “Clemson started driving back, and in the last couple of minutes we were able to stop their momentum.
“We got inside their 22 a couple of times, but we couldn’t capitalize. Some penalties and missed kicks kind of put us on [our back foot], but we were able to hold on.”
This marks UCF’s first-ever Final Four appearance. Ross said the Knights were confident of their ability to reach the Final Four coming into the weekend.
“I know that some people had us as underdogs, but we’ve been told by people all year, inside the state of Florida and outside the state, and even some Life players we’re friends with, that if you guys keep playing the way you’re capable of playing, you can make it to the final four,” said Ross.
“We came here with a good sense of confidence. All we knew is that it would depend on us. If we were too confident it would bite us. But we kept our heads. We played good rugby this weekend.”
UCF is paired up with Dartmouth in the semifinals. The Big Green are the only Final Four team making a second-consecutive appearance in the semis.