UCF coach Scott Frost finished his postgame television interview and made his way toward the tunnel behind the corner of the end zone at Lincoln Financial Field.
His boss, athletic director Danny White, greeted him with something more than a handshake but not quite a bro hug. A dozen or so Central Florida fans in the stands gathered near the railing to show their appreciation for Frost before he left the field.
A few rows back, a man wearing a Nebraska jersey – Grant Wistrom’s No. 98 – and his two sons held up three signs that together read ”SCOTT COME BACK HOME.” Earlier, while the Knights were on their way to beating Temple 45-19 to improve to 10-0 for the first time in school history, a UCF fan nearby the Huskers fans yelled, ”Stay away from our coach.”
This is the current state of No. 13 UCF football: Never been better on the field and preparing for the most anticipated home game the Knights have ever played. All the while, hanging over the program is the uncertainty that comes with having rising-star coach who will most certainly be courted by traditional powers, offering huge contracts, Power Five prestige and – in one case – the chance to come home.
”I have not paid any attention to all these whirl-wind rumors and I’m not going to,” Frost said Saturday after calling the latest rumblings about his possible departure ”totally false.” ”I’ve got an unbelievable team to coach. I can promise you no decision has been made by me.”
Even those around the program did not expect the Knights to be this good this fast. Frost took over a team than went 0-12 in 2015, George O’Leary’s final messy season as coach.
Frost got the Knights to a bowl game last year, a nice step forward. This season UCF has taken a giant leap. Getting big contributions from a bevy of freshmen and sophomores, such as quarterback McKenzie Milton and running back Adrian Killins Jr., UCF is beating its opposition by an average 28 points per game.
”It’s been a little insane to get this good this quickly,” White said before the Temple game. ”And playing so many young players who to date have been pretty consistent with their effort and level of focus each game, I’ve been shocked.”
White said when he was searching for a coach he was looking for an innovator who would have the Knights playing a style different from the state’s Power Five schools, Florida, Florida State and Miami.
Frost, the former offensive coordinator at Oregon, checked that box, but so did others. Where Frost differentiated himself, White said, was how he planned to connect with players.
”You wouldn’t have the freshmen and sophomores playing at that level if they weren’t being coached hard,” White said. ”But you can ask them, they’re having a blast.”
What’s not to like about being undefeated, heading into a showdown with No. 22 USF for a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game? Win out and UCF will play in a major bowl game.
UCF’s meteoric rise under Frost has gotten the attention of other schools, too.
Frost’s name has come up in connection with openings at Florida and Tennessee. There were also Tennessee fans at the Temple game showing Frost some love with a sign that read ”There’s Frost in our Forecast.”
”That kind of stuff is really outside chatter for us,” Milton said. ”As long as Coach Frost is our guy, he’s our guy. And we’ll go to battle for him every night.”
Nebraska still has a coach, but coach Mike Riley’s team is 4-7 and it seems inevitable new athletic director Bill Moos will be making a change.
Frost grew up in Wood River, Nebraska, played quarterback for the Cornhuskers from 1995-97 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne, and still has family in the Lincoln area.
Sitting a few seats down from James Stewart Jr. in his Wistrom jersey at the Linc was Tricia Bruning, a Nebraska native who attended the university at the same time as Frost. She now lives in Philadelphia.
”I hope the heart strings are pulled on his alma mater and that he makes a move back home,” she said. ”That’s why we’re here. I want Scott Frost back on the sidelines at Nebraska so my son who was born in Pennsylvania doesn’t root for Penn State.”
Frost was asked about the Nebraska fans, hoping to woo him back.
”That’s just the way those people are. It doesn’t surprise me that they show up. That’s awesome,” Frost said. ”But I’m here to coach our football team.”
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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