For the first time since a zero-touchdown, two-interception game against USF last season, McKenzie Milton gifted more interceptions than he did launch touchdowns on Saturday against SMU – unless you count a pick-six as a touchdown pass.
Milton had a tough time figuring out the Mustangs’ defense for most of the night.
“SMU came ready to play tonight,” said Milton on Saturday. “Defensively they threw some things at us that, I wouldn’t say caught us off-guard, but they played very hard.”
The Mustangs brought the heat against UCF, dominating with their front seven and neutralizing the open-space screen threat from Orlando’s Hometown Team. McKenzie had difficulty locating open receivers, often having plenty of time to throw but nowhere to sling the rock.
“I think our o-line did a very good job, I think there are times where stuff wasn’t open downfield, so I did my best to kind of get out of the pocket and see if stuff would break down,” he explained.
He threw the ball away at a rate we haven’t seen all season, finishing with a season-low completion percentage of 57.5%. The usual threats of extending a play with dazzling footwork didn’t pan out in the standard striking fashion, receivers dropped a couple of passes and a couple of players were hung out to dry.
For the first time in 2017, Money Milton was few bucks short of a perfect game. Time to hit the panic button and close the shop on a Heisman campaign, right?
Coach Frost wasn’t having any doubts about his Pacific-grown quarterback.
“I’m not going to criticize McKenzie,” Frost insisted. “We’re going to fix what needs to be fixed, the kid has been our leader and our sparkplug all year. Shoot, I just saw this thing, he still threw for 400 and some yards and rushed for 44 after taking three knees.”
Milton’s 412 yards through the air were a career high and marked the first time a UCF quarterback had eclipsed the 400+ mark since the divine days of Blake Bortles, a No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
He only completed 23 of his 40 attempts, but there were a few that really hurt. His average per completion was an astonishing 17.9 yards. It’s one of the most consistent elements to Milton’s game, the ability to score and pick up yards in jumbo-sized portions. That skill is why Milton started as a freshman, fitting into the prototypical UCFast blueprint.
Say what you want about Justin Holman’s right to start as the senior Quarterback, he never once passed for 400 yards in a game.
“We’re a quick strike offense, but we can also put some long drives together. Big plays are going to happen when you’ve got guys like Adrian Killins, Tre’Quan Smith, Gabe Davis, Otis Anderson, Taj McGowan, that’s just part of our identity.”
UCF’s identity right now is atomically linked with McKenzie’s own abilities. The conference’s number one scoring offense has many essential building blocks, but KZ is the spark that ignites the boosters.
Don’t expect internal criticism anytime soon.