Written by Brian Pohl
Orlando, FL- The 14th ranked UCF Knights completed their undefeated season, winning a thrilling double overtime game 62-55 over the 20th ranked Memphis Tigers to become the 2017 American Athletic Conference champions.
In what is potentially Scott Frost’s final game as the head coach at UCF, he truly went out in style. A back and forth affair which saw over 1,500 total yards combined by both teams capped off an undefeated season for the Knights, who will head into their bowl game (perhaps a New Year’s Six game) 12-0 and the AAC champions.
As the first and second ranked offenses in the nation in points per game, both teams put on a scoring exhibition. Throwing haymakers in the form of long touchdowns back and forth until finally, UCF was able to come out victorious in a second overtime.
Leading UCF to victory was sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton, who finished the game completing 28 of 40 passes for 494 yards, and five touchdowns. Adding another touchdown on the ground, Milton finished with a total of six touchdowns in the game. Although he threw three interceptions in the game, Milton was able to overcome this adversity by making key plays in big moments in the game, leading them to victory.
Now sitting at 35 touchdown passes for the season, Milton broke former UCF quarterback Ryan Schneider’s previous record of 31 touchdown passes to become the sole leader of the school record for touchdown passes in a season.
Milton spread the ball out well, completing passes to eight different receivers in the game, but it was Dedrick Snelson and Tre’Quan Smith as the standouts, as both finished with over 100-yards receiving for the game. Snelson had145 yards receiving and Smith had 161 yards. Each receiver scored two touchdowns and were key targets for Milton throughout the contest.
The rushing attack for the Knights was also effective, rushing for 232-yards and three touchdowns. Running back Otis Anderson led the way, rushing 16 times for 117 yards and the final score of the game in the second overtime, lifting the Knights over the Tigers.
The Memphis Tigers fought valiantly, overcoming a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game and send it to overtime late. Tigers’ quarterback Riley Ferguson was every bit as impressive as Milton, completing 30 of 42 passes for 471 yards and four touchdowns.
Ferguson’s primary target was by far wide receiver Anthony Miller, who thrashed the UCF defense for 195 yards and three touchdowns. UCF’s defense was able to make enough plays in the end, though, including an interception to finish the game and escape with the win.
In his final game at Spectrum Stadium, redshirt senior linebacker Shaquem Griffin showed why he is such an impact player for the UCF defense. With six tackles for the game, including two sacks and a fumble recovery, Griffin left it all out on the field and will be remembered by UCF fans for his incredible effort through the harshest adversity.
The final play of the game was a triumph for the UCF defense, who had given up four passing touchdowns up to that point in the game. As Ferguson attempted to throw, it was junior safety Tre Neal who would be the hero for the Knights, intercepting the pass and putting the final nail in the coffin for the Memphis Tigers.
After the game, Frost reflected about the victory and the moment of hoisting the trophy with his team as confetti fell upon him and his team. "I will remember that for a long time." He continued, "I couldn't see anything because of the confetti, but that's not my trophy. That's their trophy. It's a proud moment for me, but I wanted to get that trophy in these guys' hands as fast as I could."
It has been reported that Frost has accepted the job to become the next head coach at Nebraska. When asked about the report Frost said he wanted to speak to his team first before commenting. Scott Frost’s effect on this program was real. During his two-year tenure with the Knights, he took a 0-12 team to 12-0 in what Frost described as an “Impossible achievement, not an improbable one.” As of this writing, whether Frost will coach UCF’s bowl game is unknown.
The season isn’t over for UCF, who could potentially find themselves in a New Year’s Six bowl game, where they will have an opportunity to complete the full undefeated, 13-0 season.
UCF and Memphis set for Epic Rematch in American Championship Game, With Likely New Years Six Bowl Bid on the Line
Written by Brian Pohl
Orlando, FL- The end of the regular season brings upon conference championship week in college football, which for the American Athletic Conference means a ranked matchup between the 20th ranked Memphis Tigers, and the undefeated 14th ranked UCF Knights. The game will be a rematch from earlier in the season that saw the Knights route the Tigers 40-13, a game in which Memphis turned the ball over four times, and UCF went for over 600-yards of total offense.
A lot has changed for both teams since that first meeting from week 5 of the college football season. UCF head coach Scott Frost spoke about the changes for both teams saying, “We've evolved. They've evolved," he said. "They had a lot of injuries on defense early on in the year, and they've got some young guys who have improved as the year's gone along. Schematically, they have some different tendencies on defense. Offensively they're playing lights out. They're an improved team from when we saw them the first time."
The most significant evolution for Memphis may just be their offense. Despite scoring only 13 points when they first squared off against UCF, the Tigers have bounced back in a big way, now averaging 47 points per game on the season, good enough for second in the nation. The only team ranked in front of them? The UCF Knights.
The Tigers are led offensively by quarterback Riley Ferguson, whose 32 touchdown passes to eight interceptions are a large part of how the offense has been so successful. Flanking Ferguson is talented running back Darrell Henderson, who has eclipsed 1000-yards rushing on the season to go along with eight touchdowns. Wide receiver Anthony Miller, who holds every major receiving record for the Tigers, has surpassed 1200-yards receiving on the season with 12 touchdowns and will look to continue his great season. After scoring 70-points last week against ECU, Memphis believes the evolution of the offense will give the UCF defense a different look from earlier in the season.
In just the second year under Frost, the UCF offense has been dominant, averaging 48.3 points per game. Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton has been the key to their success and is having a breakthrough season throwing 30 touchdowns to just six interceptions on the year. Milton needs only two touchdown passes to break the Knight’s school record for passing touchdowns on the season, and looks poised to do so with two games left in their season. One of the biggest reasons for Milton’s success has been his consistency. Ranking second in the nation with a pass efficiency of 182.9, eighth in passing yards/completion with 14.94 ypc, and tenth in passing yards/game with 300.1 ypg, the Knights will need Milton to continue his strong play in what will likely be a shootout on Saturday.
Milton’s favorite receiver to target has by-far been wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, who has caught 48 passes for 921-yards and 11 touchdowns. Averaging 83.7 yards per game, Smith has a good shot at passing 1000-yards receiving on the season. Ten different players have scored rushing touchdowns for UCF this season, but they have been led by running back Adrian Killins Jr. who has rushed for 732-yards on the season and nine touchdowns. The offense will need to bring their A-game if they are to cap off their historic season.
After their thrilling 49-42 victory over USF in the “War on I-4” last week, the Knights completed the first undefeated regular season in school history. Coach Frost was asked how his team would bounce back after an emotional win, “My first question for them this morning was 'you got enough juice for one more?'" he said about his comments to the team at Monday's practice. "There was an enthusiastic response. Hopefully, they got some of the celebration out of them the last couple days. I told them that we're done patting ourselves on the back over that game. It's time to go back to work." Frost and the Knight’s will look to remain undefeated heading into bowl season for the first time in school history if they are victorious over the Tigers for the second time this season.
The UCF Knights and Memphis Tigers will kick-off Saturday at noon from Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Florida for the AAC Championship.