COLLEGE PARK, MD. – UCF has their first victory this season against a Power-5 opponent after crushing the Maryland Terrapins 38-10 at Capital One Field. Taj McGowan scored two touchdowns on 33 yards rushing, McKenzie Milton tossed 178 yards and a touchdown, and the defense was lights out in the dismantling of a program entering their 125th season.
“I’m proud. Nah you know, I’m not even proud, I’m happy for them because they’ve put in a lot of work and they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. It’s fun when you put a process in front of people and they follow the process and they reap the rewards for it,” said Head Coach Scott Frost after the game.
UCF won every battle on the field. They outgained the Terps in total yardage 428 – 197. They held the intimidating Maryland rushing game to only 42 yards, forced two turnovers but didn’t commit any, and won the battles in the trenches with five sacks to none allowed.
Maryland suffered a huge loss early on when true-freshman quarterback Kasim Hill left the game with what appeared to be a serious injury, never to return again. Hill’s exit was a crippling blow for the offense, who seemed to sputter out almost instantly.
“I’m broken hearted for them and Kasim,” said Frost. “He’s going to be a great player, to see anybody go down on a football field isn’t what you want to see. That certainly took the wind out of their sails.”
Third string quarterback Max Bortenschlager took over and was met with physical brutality almost instantly. His line couldn’t protect him from five UCF sacks, he couldn’t find time to locate open receivers, and he was clearly shaken up by the threat of the Knights’ pass rush.
“I felt like this dude was shaky. Like, man, if he sees us trying to come after him with all we’ve got, no human in their right mind is gonna be able to just sit there comfortably. So, whenever he saw us and I saw how happy feet he got, I knew we’ll get to him a couple of times today,” said Jamiyus Pittman, who got into the backfield for two of the five sacks.
The defense didn’t just nullify the aerial assault of the Terrapins, they dominated the ground game; UCF held the UMD rushing game to 1.1 – yes, 1.1 – yards per rush. It was no easy feat against a team that was averaging over 300 yards a game headed into Saturday.
“I’m not even going to lie, I feel great about that because it is hard. I could see why they do gash people because that’s not a normal scheme. You really have to study it and play your assignment or they will do what they’ve been doing to other people,” analyzed Jamiyus.
A two-deep group of both linemen and ‘backers got together before the game to go over film on their own, spending hours as a unit without their coaches to get better.
“Yesterday after walkthrough when we walked by the defensive meeting room and the two-deep of our linebackers and [defensive backs] were in the room with the call sheets, making calls and watching film on their own and making all the calls they’d have to make based on what they thought [Erik Chinander] would call,” explained Coach Frost.
“That’s rare. Nobody asked them to do that, they did that for two hours before they got on the bus. That’s the kind of commitment level we have right now and like I said, I’m proud to coach them.”
It’s the kind of commitment level that exemplifies the growth of UCF. Just a year ago, players were crushed after an overtime thriller at home ended in a loss. This year, this matchup, UCF was clearly better prepared, clearly more motivated.
McKenzie Milton is the obvious exemplification of this, transforming from a six-fumble performance a season ago into 178 passing yards, a touchdown, 94 rushing yards and zero turnovers. He led UCF to a 5-for-5 display in the red zone and kept his cool throughout, even if the offense came out a bit rusty.
“I thought he played really well,” said Frost. “He didn’t have as many stats as he had week one, but he had some key plays in some clutch situations. I thought some of the third down completions he made were big. Some of the throws he made when we needed a play to [Michael] Colubiale, to Jordan Akins, to Tre’Quan [Smith], that really changed the game and then his runs on third down.”
To be sure, this was a huge test for the program. A Power 5 opponent on the road on the heels of two impromptu bye weeks is a setting straight from hell for most coaches. This team displayed their maturity and growth on Saturday by not giving up an inch.
They will need to roll with this momentum next week, as conference play starts against Memphis at home. Coach Frost told the team after the game that they weren’t done yet, that this was just the beginning. It is exactly the message that the players expected, exactly the message they wanted to hear.
The big wins don’t stop in week two.