DALLAS — The second career start for Greenbrier’s Neal Burcham was much more successful than the first, but the SMU Mustangs fell and bit short of becoming bowl eligible.
Blake Bortles threw for 242 yards and ran for two touchdowns as No. 15 UCF celebrated a BCS bid already in hand by rallying to beat SMU 17-13 Saturday in front of just a few hundred fans who braved a brutal ice storm.
With the school’s first BCS berth secured by Louisville’s win at Cincinnati Thursday, the Knights were sluggish before recovering for a school-record eighth straight win and the outright title in the first year of the American Athletic Conference.
Burcham, a redshirt freshman for the Mustangs, completed 24 of 34 passes 222 yards with no interceptions and a touchdown to Keenan Holman, who had 91 yards on six catches. Burcham was intercepted three times in his first start last week against Houston in subbing for injured regular Garrett Gilbert.
Burcham left the game late in the fourth quarter with concussion symptoms.
UCF (11-1, 8-0 AAC) has both of the 34-year-old program’s 11-win seasons in the past four years. The Knights went 11-3 in 2010 and beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.
SMU (5-7, 4-4) saw its record bowl streak end at four seasons in the coldest home game in school history — 24 degrees at kickoff. It matched the 1983 Sun Bowl in El Paso as SMU’s coldest game. It was UCF’s coldest game by far.
The wintry blast that virtually shut down the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Friday prompted officials to offer free admission. It didn’t help much, with fewer than 1,000 fans showing up for the game — far short of the announced attendance of 12,598.
The crowd stood throughout, but mostly because it was warmer that way. The east side of SMU’s campus stadium behind the UCF bench was empty.
SMU twice failed on fourth down in UCF territory in the fourth quarter. Burcham was stuffed and injured on fourth-and-1 with 8:22 remaining.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)