CINCINNATI, Ohio – Second-year quarterback McKenzie Milton became the full embodiment of what Head Coach Scott Frost saw in his true-freshman starter last season, torching the Cincinnati Bearcats for a career-high five touchdowns and 374 yards in the construction of a 51-23 win at Nippert Stadium.
The game ended with 0:04 left on the clock in the third quarter, shortened by American Athletic Conference officials who called the game – citing player safety as a primary concern. Lightning delayed the game for an hour and seven minutes before the final was official.
“I think there was a lot of discussion and at that point in the game they were trying to do what was best for players and player safety,” said Coach Frost. “I think the conference office is the one that, for player safety, decided to call it so it’s a final where it stood, and there is some good and bad to that. We would have liked to see some of our younger players get some reps, but getting out of here without anybody getting hurt is a good thing.”
Cincinnati had no answer for the Knights’ aerial assault, apparent from the first drive of the game. UCF took four plays to find the end zone on a 54-yard touchdown to Dredrick Snelson, notching six points and removing just 1:21 off the clock.
From that point forward, the floodgates were open. The Knights would score on eight-of-eight drives through four quarters, striking explosively and often. Everyone got a piece of the action tonight.
McKenzie Milton hit eight different receivers (three of them for touchdowns), six different players carried the rock and two of those scored. He started the game 5-5 for 172 yards and two touchdowns before tossing his first incompletion.
“I tell you what, that kid is playing lights out, and he deserves some credit for a lot of what is going on. We’re a lot better all around him too,” said Frost. “He’s got a lot of good weapons some new ones coming up every week, and his offensive line – one sack through four games is pretty special. A lot of guys are playing well, but McKenzie is playing some darn good football right now.”
Tre’Quan Smith pulled down three touchdown receptions and rushed for one more, totaling four on the day to pair with his 165 yards. The Cincinnati defense was out-classed in terms of speed and skill, swimming in the wake of Smith and his receiving corps all game.
“Coach Frost has done an awesome job recruiting playmakers here and our O-Line does an awesome job of getting me time to get through my progressions,” explained McKenzie Milton in the post-game chaos. “Those guys just make plays after plays with the ball in their hands.”
UCF receivers averaged 23.4 yards per reception and the backs gashed the Bearcats for 141 yards – good for 515 yards, the third time UCF has eclipsed the 500 yard benchmark this season.
“I’ve been around football for a while, and I don’t remember a cleaner game on offense. They executed so well, we had such a good week of preparation and I knew they were ready to play, but the performance that they put out tonight on offense was special, and it’s a great thing to build on.”
Normally the UCF defense sets the tone game in and game out, but the heavy-handed-hitters took a backseat to their UCFast counterparts, letting Cincinnati score more points than any team has on them all season.
“I just don’t think we played great on defense, and I thought they had a really good plan, and I thought they played well on offense, I give them a lot of credit,” said Frost.
Cincinnati quarterback Hayden Moore was the silver-lining in the Bearcats’ cloud of despair, sneaking three touchdowns past the Knights; two on the ground and one through the air. That being said, he also threw an interception to defensive lineman Seyvon Lowry – who now has back-to-back games with a pick.
UCF outperformed Cincinnati in all three phases, but ran into a little bit of penalty trouble along the way. Concurrent with their previous three performances in 2017, the Knights elicited 44 penalty yards on eight calls against them.
So many penalties are worrisome, but a minor issue considering the manner that UCF has beat the brakes off teams through four weeks of football. In a game that last year’s team may have let get away from them, potentially losing focus on the heels of a landmark victory, Orlando’s Hometown Team outgained Cincinnati 515-391 while running 26 less plays.
It was another case of halftime certainty, another chance for UCF to keep chopping wood with the game in hand. The team didn’t get to finish out the beatdown, but will take the TKO. There was simply no stopping the Knights in their first 4-0 start since joining D1 college football.