ORLANDO – This is that game of the year where the Knights of the University of Central Florida were most clearly favored than any other contest beyond a reasonable doubt.
Despite the best efforts of second year East Carolina Head Coach Scottie Montgomery to find a weakness in UCF, coached by sophomore signal caller, Scott Frost, the inevitable became history as the Knights sailed past ECU, 63-21.
The opening drive only took 1:16 before UCF’s quarterback, Mckenzie Milton threw a 48-yard score to tight end, Jordan Akins. This opening-drive score assured that Milton has gone six-straight games with a passing touchdown. It was a swift road for Central Florida to go up 7-0. Milton finished his evening late in the game with 21-for-27 (68 percent) for 324 yards and two touchdowns in the air and one on the ground. He also recorded six yards on four carries.
After a Pirate three-and-out on their first drive, UCF defensive end Jamayius Pittman scored out of the Jumbo Package on a four-yard dink for a touchdown. That play was a microcosm of the long (5:02 minutes) 80-yard drive by the Knights. They seemed to be able to move the ball at will while getting several different pieces involved doing it. Before the end of the contest, nine different players including special teams and defense would record touchdowns.
The Pirates wouldn’t be so quickly denied. With close to 6:00 remaining in the first quarter, ECU running back Darius Pinnix cut, bowled and stumbled his way for 57 yards into the red zone to set up ECU’s first touchdown of the night and a 14-7 score. The touchdown was hauled in by Deondre Farrier as one of his three catches for nine yards from quarterback Thomas Sirk.
Sirk’s performance concluded with 9-for-21 (42 percent) with 91 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick. Pinnix showed up as the top rushing performer for his squad with 13 carries and 94 yards.
Before the end of the first quarter, UCF’s favorite track star, running back Adrian Killins, capped a 69-yard drive on a three-yard dive into the promised land to finish the opening period with 21-7 on the board. Killins gained 52 yards total on eight carries
In the middle of the second quarter with Central Florida on the goalline, the offense bucked the running back up the middle on a fake while Milton tiptoed around the edge for the 1-yard run to extend the lead to 28-7. ECU’s following drive was abruptly ended via a pick-6 by UCF defensive back Tre Neal who brought it 50 yards to paydirt as the second defensive Knight player to post points on the board for a 35-7 score.
Before the end of the second half, both sides traded touchdowns. After the Pirates, wide receiver Davon Grayson capped his team’s longest drive of the night with a four-yard box-out catch. Central Florida running back Taj McGowan ran in a 4-yarder of his own to make the halftime score 42-14. Grayson caught six passes for 96 yards as ECU’s top receiver in the contest. McGowan finished with 8 carries for 30 yards and a fumble.
It looked like UCF would open scoring 12 minutes into the back half of play. Before they could convert, McGowan fumbled the ball that was recovered by East Carolina. The ensuing punt led to Mike Hughes jetting the punt return to the house to make it 49-14. This marked UCF’s first touchdown returning a punt since 2007.
The UCF offense then broke the plane three more times to finish the game in the final quarter with back up passer, Noah Vedral. Vedral finished with 4-for-4 on the night posting 41 yards and running for a touchdown. Greg McCrae also saw the field at the running back spot with six carries for 67 yards and the game’s final touchdown.
The 4th quarter saw activity for the Pirate offense with the second string quarterback, Gardener Minshew landing 6-for-12 with a touchdown pass and 69 yards. That touchdown was ECU’s last score of the night to receiver, Thaj Deans.
Maintaining their undefeated status, Coach Frost said of his team’s showing, “I was really pleased tonight. We didn’t play a perfect game, but we’ve been challenging the guys not to be reading articles about themselves and taking anybody for granted”.
UCF will travel to Annapolis, MD to play Navy Saturday.
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