DALLAS, Tex. — It was the closest win of the season for UCF, a 31-24 victory that never felt completely under control. The Knights posted their lowest scoring total of the season, didn’t cover the spread and won by a one-score margin for the first time in 2017.
“I’m exhausted. The players played their tails off, I’m so proud of this team for finding ways to win in a close game on the road. That’s one of the better teams in our league that we just played,” sighed a worn-down Frost after the game.
Sure, the offense logged 615 total yards and Milton became the first UCF quarterback to launch over 400 yards since the divine days of Blake Bortles, but the team was completely out of character.
“At times we looked like us,” said Frost. “We made it harder than it probably had to be. I give a ton of credit for that to them, but we also kind of found ourselves in a close game that we probably shouldn’t have been in.”
“When you have 600 yards of offense you’re supposed to have more points than that, and that’s my fault. We got stopped on a fourth down, that would have helped to get points on the first drive.”
SMU gouged the Knights’ defense for an 86-yard passing touchdown on their first offensive play from scrimmage, smacking UCF in the mouth after turning the ball over on downs to close their first possession. The defense settled down afterwards, but still let a couple of big plays sneak through – including a 27 yards touchdown gallop.
The battle being waged between the ears was the toughest battle for UCF to overcome at Gerald J Ford Stadium. Frost was so emotionally exhausted from baby prep that he considered mid-game handing the calls over to Offensive Coordinator Troy Walters.
It wasn’t just Frost who had a reasonable distraction on his mind. Players are hearing from every platform available about the possibility of losing their head coach, and have to tune it out daily. Adrian Killins grew terse and cold when asked about the Gator fans who attended the game to hold up Frost to Florida signs.
“I prefer to not speak on that,” said Killins emphatically. “We’re not worried about that right now, we’re about finishing the season strong and winning national championships and division championships and conference championships.”
The Knights appeared to be rattled but came up with big plays when they needed to. Tre Neal began shifting the momentum back to the good guys’ side with a goal-line forced fumble that would turn into an 80-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Davis.
“We regrouped on the sideline and just said that we’ve got to make a play,” explained Neal. “We just tried to bring some spark on the defensive side. I saw the ball, put my hand in there and I felt it, so I ripped it out.”
Tre brought the spark the team needed. That 80-yard touchdown after the turnover was the first time in the game that UCF had really looked themselves. Adrian Killins busted loose for a 63-yard touchdown, UCF stuffed the Mustangs on two-of-three fourth down conversions and found a way to win in a fashion similar to the game in Annapolis – by any means necessary.