UCF made whole in 2nd half

Knights outscore Tigers 35-3 af­ter break to de­fend league crown

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Sports - By Matt Murschel Or­lando Sen­tinel

Through its 24-game win­ning streak, UCF has an­swered count­less chal­lenges.

Through thick and thin, through dou­ble-digit deficits and de­bil­i­tat­ing in­juries, the Knights have taken ev­ery­one’s best shot and some­how, some­way sur­vived.

Even when faced with its big­gest chal­lenge to date — down 17 points to Mem­phis in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game Satur­day and with­out their star quar­ter­back McKen­zie Mil­ton — the Knights some­how, some­way mounted an epic come­back and beat the Tigers 56-41.

“This group han­dles ad­ver­sity bet­ter than any group that I've been around,” UCF coach Josh He­u­pel told the ABC broad­cast team af­ter the win. “... This is a cham­pi­onship team.”

Backup quar­ter­back Darriel Mack Jr. scored six to­tal touch- downs in just his sec­ond ca­reer start as No. 8 UCF outscored Mem­phis 35-3 in the sec­ond half to re­main un­de­feated and cap­ture its sec­ond con­sec­u­tive con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship.

Things didn’t look so good for the Knights at the start.

Mem­phis re­cov­ered a Mack fum­ble at UCF’s 27-yard line and two plays later, run­ning back Dar­rell Hen­der­son rum­bled in from 12 yards out for an­other touch­down to push the lead to 14-0.

UCF re­bounded on its next pos­ses­sion, with the Knights driv­ing 65 yards on a drive capped by a 14-yard touch­down run by Greg McCrae that sliced into the lead to 14-7.

But those good feel­ings didn’t last long as Tigers run­ning back Patrick Tay­lor out­raced the UCF de­fense, scor­ing on a 72-yard touch­down run that pushed Mem­phis up 21-7 mid­way through the first quar­ter.

Mack moved the UCF of­fense down­field on the next pos­ses­sion, but he was pres­sured on a third-and-five. That re­sulted in Mack los­ing the foot­ball for the sec­ond time.

Mem­phis drove down to the UCF 19-yard line be­fore set­tling for a 36-yard field goal by Ri­ley Pat­ter­son that ex­tended the Tigers’ lead to 24-7.

UCF put to­gether its best of­fen­sive pos­ses­sion of the game, driv­ing 72 yards be­fore Mack took it upon him­self to rush 6 yards for the score.

As he dove into the end zone, how­ever, Mack was hit and the ball flipped out. But UCF tight end Michael Col­u­biale even­tu­ally re­cov­ered the foot­ball for the touch­down.

Hen­der­son once again de­liv­ered what appeared to be a crush­ing blow, this time scor­ing an 81-yard touch­down run on the sec­ond play of the Tigers’ next pos­ses­sion.

The score ex­tended Mem­phis’ lead to 31-14 with 11:24 left in the first half.

Hen­der­son racked up 166 yards and three touch­downs on just six car­ries to that point.

UCF cut the lead to 31-21 with just un­der three min­utes left in the first half af­ter the Knights drove 90 yards be­fore Mack lofted a pass to red­shirt sopho­more Jake Hescock in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard score.

Mack’s first ca­reer touch­down cut the lead to 10.

Af­ter the score, He­u­pel paced the side­lines wav­ing his hands into the air try­ing

to get the crowd amped up for the de­fense.

But af­ter the Knights forced a three-and-out, Otis Anderson fum­bled the punt and Mem­phis took over at the UCF 31-yard line. Five plays later, Hen­der­son took the snap out of the Wild­cat for­ma­tion and lofted a 4-yard pass to Sean Dykes that ex­tended the lead to 38-21.

UCF took the sec­ond­half kick­off and drove to its own 46-yard line be­fore Mack con­nected with Anderson down the left side­line for a 54-yard touch­down that cut the lead to 38-28 with 12 min­utes left in the third quar­ter.

Af­ter UCF forced a three­and-out, Anderson gave the Knights a charge, re­turn­ing a punt 43 yards into Mem­phis ter­ri­tory. Mack then did the rest, div­ing into the end zone for 4-yard touch­down that re­duced Mem­phis’ ad­van­tage to 38-35.

Mem­phis added a field goal to ex­tend the lead to 41-35, but Mack once again stepped up. Af­ter lead­ing UCF on a long drive, he found the end zone for a 2-yard touch­down run that gave the Knights their first lead of the game, 42-41.

STEPHEN M. DOWELL/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

UCF quar­ter­back Darriel Mack Jr. (8) screams in cel­e­bra­tion af­ter lead­ing the Knights to a touch­down against Mem­phis on Satur­day.

STEPHEN M. DOWELL/TNS

UCF quar­ter­back Darriel Mack Jr. man­ages to side­step a div­ing Mem­phis de­fender and pick up yardage dur­ing Satur­day’s AAC cham­pi­onship game in Or­lando.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.