The UCF Knights closed out their four-game home stand avenging their defeat last season against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles winning a double overtime thriller, 38-31 improving to 2-0 in conference and their first ever overtime win against the program.With a win here, the Knights improve to 3-1 at home this season and only their second win against Southern Miss all-time. Despite post-season hopes remaining up in the air, the Knights have looked good early in conference play. Also to note, this was UCF’s 100th win since moving to the FBS in 1995.The Knights started the game with a methodical drive resulting in a Blake Bortles rushing touchdown inside the one yardline to give UCF the quick lead. From there they would bare down on defense holding the Golden Eagles to 33 yards in the first quarter.The second quarter would see a more competitive Eagles team who was able to finally sniff the endzone coming within three points. A resilient Knights squad punched in their second touchdown of the contest, another Bortles touchdown run, to take a 17-7 lead into the half.
After Shawn Moffit field goal try come up empty, Southern Miss marched down the field in route to a 15-yard touchdown run by Jalen Richard drawing the Golden Eagles yet again within three points. Both teams would remain in a stalemate for the remainder of the quarter leaving the contest to be decided in the fourth, and final quarter.
UCF would enter the fourth driving and would punch in a touchdown with 11:45 left in the game to go up 24-14 culminated by Storm Johnson’s 32-yard touchdown run. Unfortunately, as fast as the Knights would expand their lead, the Golden Eagles were just as fast to strike back.
Three minutes and seven seconds later saw Southern Miss finish their drive with another rushing touchdown for Richard. The game would remain back-and-forth as the Knights allowed the Golden Eagles to hang around.
From there, Southern Miss would drive down to score a touchdown starting overtime up 31-24. UCF would respond with two straight touchdowns and a decisive interception to finally clip the Golden Eagles wings.
“They started stacking the box, bringing eight guys in there and we have to complete passes. We had a couple of drops, and JJ made a few nice catches but we have to catch passes,” said Coach George O’Leary.
UCF’s lack of defensive pressure and inability to finish tackles allowed Southern Miss to gain 194 yards on the ground. Despite their shortcomings, the Knights escape with the victory among a heroic overtime effort by Latavius Murray. Despite getting his ankle taped at halftime limiting his effectiveness, the senior was able to step up carrying the Knights to victory.
“It felt real good, we had to bounce back after they scored,” said Murray. “As the game goes on you get more comfortable and try to get better and figure out the defense you’re playing.”
The Knights rushing attack was night and day between the first half and overtime and the second half. This was the highest scoring game of the season for Southern Miss and the best they’ve played all season according to head coach Ellis Johnson.
This challenge should be no surprise to a UCF program going through it’s last season in Conference USA. The Knights have put themselves in position for the inside track to an East Division crown with six games remaining on the season. UCF go on the road next week to face a lowly Memphis squad and continue their final road through Conference USA.