No. 11 UCF fo­cused on Navy, not play­off pic­ture

The Bradenton Herald - - College Football - BY FRED GOODALL

No. 11 UCF, heav­ily fa­vored to beat Navy to re­main un­beaten and ex­tend the na­tion’s long­est win­ning streak to 22 games, in­sists the Knights aren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion to chat­ter about their chances of wind­ing up in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off.

“We talk about it ev­ery day. … Out­side noise has no im­pact on what we are,” coach Josh He­u­pel re­it­er­ated.

“We’re only as good as our next per­for­mance. Satur­day 12 o’clock vs. Navy is a huge test. I think our kids are ex­cited about that. … So let’s fo­cus on that,” He­u­pel added. “How­ever the sea­son un­folds, I still be­lieve if we go out and han­dle our busi­ness, things will shake out the way they’re sup­posed to.”

The Knights (8-0, 5-0) dropped two spots in this week’s As­so­ci­ated Press Top 25, even though they beat Tem­ple 52-40 to ex­tend their win­ning streak to an Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence-record 21 con­sec­u­tive games.

UCF re­mained No. 12 in the lat­est CFP rank­ings, de­spite yield­ing 670 yards de­fen­sively and need­ing McKen­zie Mil­ton to rally the Knights from a half­time deficit to take sole pos­ses­sion of first place in the AAC East Di­vi­sion.

Mil­ton, re­turn­ing from miss­ing one game with an undis­closed in­jury, threw for 312 yards and three touch­downs while also rush­ing for a TD.

“He played cham­pi­onship foot­ball. Found a way to help us go 1-0,” He­u­pel said, re­peat­ing the fa­mil­iar one-game-at-a-time re­frain UCF rou­tinely sings af­ter vic­to­ries.

“He is a guy that is a fierce com­peti­tor. He’s bat­tled through a lot of things this year, most of it un­known by the me­dia un­til he wasn’t able to go out and play,” He­u­pel added, “He’s a tough kid. I ap­pre­ci­ate the heck out of him for that.”

Navy (2-7, 1-4) has lost six straight and is com­ing off a 42-0 loss at Cincin­nati, which re-joined UCF this week as the only AAC teams in the Top 25. The once-beaten, 25th-ranked Bearcats travel to Florida to face the Knights next Satur­day.

“It’s go­ing to be an­other tall order for us,” Navy coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo said.

The Mid­ship­men are fin­ish­ing a three-week stretch in which they will have played No. 3 Notre Dame, Cincin­nati and UCF, who are a com­bined 25-1.

“It’s un­charted wa­ters for us,” said Ni­u­mat­alolo, who’s taken Navy to bowl games nine of the past 11 sea­sons. “It ob­vi­ously gets tougher ev­ery week.” PO­TENT OF­FENSE: UCF ranks third na­tion­ally in to­tal of­fense, av­er­ag­ing 548.8 yards and 45.4 points per game. The Knights have scored at least 30 points in 21 con­sec­u­tive games, the long­est such streak in the coun­try.

Mil­ton, eighth in Heis­man Tro­phy bal­lot­ing a year ago, has thrown for 2,109 yards, 19 touch­downs and just five in­ter­cep­tions. Greg McCrae is com­ing off rush­ing for 188 yards and one TD against Tem­ple.

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