ORLANDO –The air was thick with hype as the University of Central Florida hosted the Memphis Tigers at Spectrum Stadium.
This match had potential to be “the unstoppable force versus the immovable object” battle every football fan hopes for in a struggle to stay undefeated. For both teams, this was the first game facing a fellow member of the American Athletic Conference.
Either squad was also undefeated going into this game with Memphis at 3-0 and the Knights at 2-0. And both squads rolled to the stadium with victories against Power 5 conference teams recorded this season. As it turned out, we got a blowout instead of a battle as the Black and Gold declawed the Tigers, 40-13.
UCF’s opening drive started on their eight-yard line. After three first downs, the Knights faced a 3rd and 12. Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton dodged edge pressure from the Tigers that he turned into a will-imposing 12-yard jaunt to continue the drive. After five 1st downs, Memphis held their opponents out of the end zone for a 4th and one on the goal line. Head Coach Scott Frost opted to forego the field goal which paid off when Taj McGowan blasted through to cap off a 17-play, 92-yard drive for a 6-0 lead after a missed two-point conversion.
McGowan finished with another strong showing posting 12 carries for 63 yards on the night. Milton would finish the night 19-for-31 for 253 yards and a trio of touchdown passes while adding 88 yards on 11 carries.
Memphis’s offense came onto the field with their first drive to answer the early score led by Tiger quarterback, Riley Ferguson. The only blues they felt then were their team colors marching straight down the field like a knife through warm butter for 71 yards in less than three minutes. Running back Patrick Taylor capped the drive with a two-yard run for six. Taylor recorded nine carries for 29 yards as the second leading rusher for his school behind star runner Darrell Henderson and his six for 48-yard performance .
Later in the first quarter, the Tigers would end a drive with a pair of blunders that would impact their performance into a downward spiral. On a 3rd and one at the UCF 34-yard line with less than eight minutes in the quarter, Ferguson hit Tiger wide receiver Anthony Miller in the hands for a sure first down which was dropped. Thinking they wouldn’t be denied, Memphis Head Coach Mike Norvell opted to go for it on 4th down. Knights Defensive End Tony Guerard tackled the runner for a loss of six yards giving his team the ball on their 40-yard line. The Knights failed to capitalize with a Milton interception in the end zone for a touchback hauled in by the Cats DB TJ Carter, but Memphis still lost out on a opportunity for points of their own.
The score stayed 7-6 in favor of the Tigers until the Knights kicker, Matthew Wright, booted in a 28 yarder making the score 9-7. On the next drive, Memphis began to move the ball with a promising chance to answer a UCF score once again to change the lead. Riley Ferguson completed 71 yards on four consecutive completions to get the ball on the Knights’ five-yard line. After an incompletion from a pass defended in the end zone, last year’s AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Shaquem Griffin strip-sacked Ferguson. UCF’s linebacker Pat Jasinski recovered the fumble to end the Tigers drive. From that play on, the Memphis field general seemed nervous in the pocket for the rest of the game recording three interceptions on his stat sheet that also featured 27-49 for 55 percent and 321 yards with a touchdown on the game’s final play.
Before the end of the half, UCF would post two more touchdowns from running back Adrian Killins on a 96-yard blaze and a Tre’Quan Smith reception for 34 yards to light up a 23-7 halftime score. Killins’ score is the longest play from scrimmage in school history.
“NOBODY IS GOING TO STOP THIS GUY”
Truer words may not have been spoken ????
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2017
As he concluded the last 20 yards of the run, he actually widened the gap between him and his closest pursuers. That huge scamper helped him achieve nine carries for 118 yards.
From that point on, it was all UCF for the rest of the night other than a garbage-time break of the plane by Tigers wide receiver Damonte Coxie for his first NCAA career score. Killins recorded his first receiving touchdown in 2017 as one of five he snatched for 64 yards total. Smith caught his second scoring catch of his three on the night for 71 yards. Wright also added a second field goal from 35 as he went 2-2 in the game.
Memphis did threaten in the red zone with less than 12 minutes in the 4th quarter, but the Knights defense completed a goal line stand on a 4th down sack by linebacker Gabriel Luyanda. DBs Mike Hughes and Kyle Gibson recorded interceptions as did defensive end Seyvon Lowry.
Watch for a surprise…
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2017
The Knights caused four turnovers in the outing while Memphis only caused one.
UCF Head Coach Scott Frost was elated in his post game presser. “I love being these guys’ coach. That was an unbelievable performance by our guys”.
UCF will be back in action Saturday in Cincinnati.
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