ORLANDO, FL — After facing a scare last week a against the SMU Mustangs, fans could be sure that Head Coach Scott Frost and his staff would not give the University of Central Florida Football Team a chance to slack off. Not even the birth of his first child earlier in the week would allow Frost to relax the attack as the Knights put a muzzle on the University of Connecticut Huskies, 49-24.
UCF began the contest on offense, then appeared to face a season first — a three-and-out on the Knights’ initial series of the game. They lined up to punt, but suddenly the Husky defense jumped offside and obligingly moved the chains for a first down. After a pair of dropped passes, quarterback McKenzie Milton took matters into his own hands, earning another first with a seven-yard scamper. This appeared to wake up the offense, as two plays later running back/wide receiver Otis Anderson completed the scoring effort on a three-yard plunge for an early 7-0 lead.
Backup quarterback David Pindell took the field to replace the Huskies’ injured signal caller who was out due to concussion protocol from the previous game. Pindell was prolific from the start, using solid scrambling and running to get his squad moving. They eventually entered the red zone on a defensive pass interference penalty by UCF that placed the ball at the one-yard line. After a stuffed running attempt, a false start penalty, and a tackle for a loss, UConn settled for the short 20-yard field goal by Micheal Tarbutt to make it 7-3.
On the Knights’ ensuing possession, Milton was once again put on a rushing display, breaking off a 20-yarder to initiate the series, then carrying again a few plays later to convert another third down. Adrian Killins took his turn lighting up the scoreboard and made the score 14-3. Killins finished the night with seven carries for 24 yards and one touchdown.
UConn logged the first turnover of the match on their second offensive sortie when running back Kevin Mensah fumbled a toss from Pindell that was recovered by defensive end Tony Guerad. The Knights offense took over on the Huskies’ 28-yard line and, despite being set back 15 yards in penalties, still managed to reach pay dirt. Wide receiver Marlon Williams capped off the drive on a six-yard pass from Milton for his first NCAA touchdown and a 21-3 lead on the board.
Early in the second quarter, after a UConn punt and a fourth-down failure by UCF, the Dogs took over from their own 46. Pindell continued to be elusive, repeatedly setting up chances for his squad to move the ball. Finding themselves at the goal line once again, Mason Donaldson hauled in a 12-yard catch for six with nothing but grass around him. The play was Pindell’s first scoring completion of the year and reduced the gap to 21-10.
The final tally of the half was reeled in with 7:43 on the clock by the Knights’ top receiver, Tre’Quan Smith. Smith shucked and juked a path to the end zone from 41 yards out, handing UCF a 28-10 edge on his way to seven total receptions and 120 yards for the night. It’s no wonder that Milton referred to him as a “Gift from God” in the postgame press conference.
The Huskies closed out the half with a failed fourth-down attempt at the UCF 23 and an interception of Pindall by Knights cornerback Mike Hughes in the final two minutes. UCF held onto its 17-point margin, finishing the half without a turnover.
The Huskies opened the second half fighting to stay alive. Arkeel Newsome snagged a 60-yard streak to put his club in the red zone, and the foray was capped by Pindell calling his own number and stomping in from nine yards away. After earning a 28-17 count, UConn’s scrappiness didn’t stop there as the visitors’ Tre Bell forced a fumble by Anderson which was pounced on by Tyler Coyle. Though Connecticut didn’t score off the turnover, they finished the third period by shutting down the Knights for their second scoreless quarter in the 2017 season.
The 4th quarter was when destiny set in as UCF racked-up 21 points. Anderson cashed in a career-long 65-yarder to the house. He finished with nine runs for 84 yards and two trips to glory as well as a 37-yard reception. That score was followed by Milton chalking up a rushing 6-pointer of his own, wrapping up the night at 24-36 passing (67%) for 311 yards and 2 scores, plus nine ground attempts netting another 84 yards and another touchdown. Once Milton departed from the field, Noah Vedral came in to clean up and hit a 37-yard completion to Cam Stewart who was so open that he set the table for six. This was Vedral’s first pass of the season which yielded points and the first for Stewart on the receiving end, as well.
I asked Coach Frost if he said anything to his team to get them to finish strong after the scoreless quarter. Frost said, “You know this team doesn’t really need rah-rah speeches. This team has plenty of energy. All we need to do is go out and do our job and execute. . .”
Pindell stuck the ball in the end zone one last time in the contest on a 22-yard pass to Aaron Mclean. Pindell finished 18-31 (58%) for 201 aerial yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He contributed an additional valiant ground effort, running 21 times for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Next week, Coach Frost and company travel to Temple University in Pennsylvania to face the Owls.