Leading into this game, many people probably took to Google to look up who the Austin Peay Governors were. Just as quickly as they were identified as upstarts from the Ohio Valley Conference, the Knights of UCF would crush them in another forgettable smack down victory, 73-33. This makes UCF the only remaining 2017 undefeated FBS team to win every game by double digits.
Despite smashing his opponent by 40 points, it was obvious Central Florida Head Coach Scott Frost was somehow disappointed in his team. “. . . I don’t think we played our best game. We made some mistakes and I’m not completely happy with our performance, but it’s good anytime you can play less than your best and get a win . . .”
The Knights had first crack with the ball. After their initial first down, UCF was forced to a fourth and three which they converted to move the chains for the second time. Three plays later, running back Taj McGowan trotted four yards into the endzone to make it 7-0. McGowan finished with only three carries and 10 yards, but also had two more touchdowns.
Austin Peay’s offense opened its first drive with a pair of first downs. Running back Kentel Williams crossed the plane for a 28-yard gain that was good for six until it was called back for holding. Two plays later, Peay wouldn’t be denied as Williams whirled and dashed his way to converting a third-and-18 into Central Florida’s red zone for a new set of downs. On the following fouth down, Ahmad Tanner plowed across the line from the seven to tie the game, 7-7.
Immediately afterward, one could feel the sentiment of a trap game fall over the crowd. But after a Mike Hughes 90-yard kickoff return to the house, the Governors first term as holders of game momentum ended. The first quarter concluded with a 14-7 UCF lead and the Knights on Austin Peay’s doorstep.
To start the second quarter, McGowan hurled himself into the endzone to make the score 21-7.
In response, the Governors completed a 74-yard streak from quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall to wide receiver Kyran Moore .to put them inside the three-yard line After a wild goal line play, which had multiple fumbles, Peay managed to crack the plane and score thanks to offensive lineman Ryan Rockensuess fumble recovery. This put the scoreboard at 21-13.
After a 20-yard field goal by Knights kicker Matthew Wright, to make it 24-13, Peay took over to start the next possession. Linebacker Pat Jasinski forced a fumble by Josh Alexander. The ball was recovered by the 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year Shaquem Griffin who carried it to pay dirt to lengthen UCF’s lead to 31-13.
Just when it seemed that the Knights would charge on, Kyle Gibson was called for a targeting foul that was upheld for 15 yards and the defensive back’s ejection from the contest. Austin Oatsvall slid at the last minute on a scramble and Gibson’s forearm connected with his head as he went down. UCF Head Coach Scott Frost appeared insulted by the call, which produced 30 total yards in penalties and aided in an eventual Governors touchdown. That came on a batted Oatsvall pass that seemed ordained to land in the hands of tight end Trey Pruitt, making it 31-20.
Towards the end the half, the teams traded a pair of sixers. The Governors’ Kyran Moore dashed 90 yards on the kickoff return that followed a two-yard scoring keeper by Knights Quarterback McKenzie Milton, driving the point tally to 38-26. But the half wasn’t over.
To answer back, Knight receiver Dredrick Snelson turned in a 27-yard catch that might be one of the more spectacular plays of the season. Set up via an interception return by Linebacker Titus Davis, Milton passed to Snelson in double coverage, where he grabbed the ball and managed to drag a foot at the back of the end zone. After a booth review, the play was ruled a scoring completion and the halftime video screen read 45-26.
As the second half began, the track meet of scoring continued. Milton would drop in two more passing six-baggers before completing his night. One was to Tre’Quan Smith, who wound up with five catches for 64 yards. His final aerial TD was to Snelson, the wide receiver’s second scoring catch, enabling him to complete the match with five receptions and 90 yards. Milton hit the bench after delivering a 24-26 (92%) completion rate for a total of 275 passing yards and three touchdowns, plus another chalked up on the ground.
In the 4th quarter, Central Florida’s offense, with Noah Vedral at the helm, posted a pair of end zone trips. Vedral recorded one himself and running back Cordarrian Richardson added the other on a night where he led the offense in rushing with 43 yards on 12 carries. Vedral’s stat line was five runs for 37 yards, while throwing 4-5 to net 72 more.
Austin Peay’s scoring concluded in the 3rd quarter when Moore jetted into the endzone with a 35-yard heave from Oatsvall. Moore was the Governors’ top pass catcher on the night, hauling in five tosses for 130 yards. Oatsvall went home with a 12-18 (67%) passing slate for 209 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.