ORLANDO, Fla. – From the boxscore, you would think that UCF (7-0) throttled FCS Austin Peay (5-4) in their record-setting 73-33 victory over the Governors on Saturday.
The Knights hung up more points than they ever have in a single game, scored in all three phases of the game and won by forty – but it was far from a satisfactory performance from the No. 17 team in the nation.
“I thought their offense played really well,” admitted Head Coach Scott Frost. “That being said, I don’t think we played our best game.”
“We made some mistakes and I’m not completely happy with our performance. It’s good – any time you can play less than your best and get a win it’s rewarding and it’s a good thing.”
Austin Peay had treated their trip to Orlando the same way that most teams would a bowl game berth, complete with sightseeing and relaxation time. UCF powered their way through the scheduled bye week but appeared to be the team on vacation in the first half.
The Governors hit UCF for a gain of 74 yards, scored on a 91-yard kickoff return, and put the ball in the end zone from 35, 12, and 7 yards out. They gouged the Knights’ defense for 352 total yards, held onto possession for 32:11 and played with real fire.
Pure talent was the difference maker in this game. UCF has a stable of bigger, faster, stronger players that would not be denied. Mike Hughes scored effortlessly on a kick return, Titus Davis almost took an interception to the house and Shaquem Griffin didn’t let anything stop him from scoring on a loose ball down the sideline.
Taj McGowan scored a pair of touchdowns, Dredrick Snelson came down with two of his own and McKenzie Milton completed 24-of-26 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Even in their off-kilter performance, the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense found a way to get the job done.
“I don’t know if I was ever uncomfortable, I just wasn’t real happy with how we approached it,” said Frost on the effort.
“You can’t cheat the game of football. You’re either playing your hardest or you’re not. You’re either preparing as well as you can or you’re not. We didn’t tackle very well, we made mistakes, we weren’t disciplined.”
The mood after the game was almost somber in the press room. Interviews were shorter than usual, Coach Frost radiated with angry heat that had clearly not dissipated. It was the worst effort that UCF’s defense has displayed this season and can be worrysome with a stretch of three games leading into USF in which the Knights will be heavily favored.
UCF will not have an easy time bouncing back against the tremendous SMU receiving corps. The Mustangs are coming off of a close win and are loaded at the No. 1 and No. 2 receiver slot, a recipe for disaster with a matchup against the weak link in the defense’s armor.
“The score ended up being one sided but they played a great game and I give them a ton of credit,” insisted Frost.
“It’s going to give us a lot to clean up and go to work on next week.”