ORLANDO, Fla. – UCF held on to win this year’s battle in the War on I4, surviving late-game dramatics from USF to escape with a 49-42 victory over the USF Bulls. It is the first undefeated regular season in school history.
The Knights stole back a 42-34 lead over USF with just 2:21 to play in the game, putting the assumed cap on a game that wreaked havoc on the blood pressure of fans everywhere. McKenzie Milton hit Otis Anderson for a 23-yard touchdown down the sideline, and Orlando’s Hometown Team just needed one more stop to put the game away.
Enter Kryptonite, stage left.
Quinton Flowers was superhuman in his effort tonight, single-handedly accounting for over 600 yards of offense on the strength of 503 passing yards and another 102 from his fleet feet. He would score four times through the air and once more as a ball-carrier, but it was the last score that hurt the most.
Flowers hit D’Earnest Johnson for an 83-yard bomb on the Bulls’ first possession following the assumed put-away score. It happened faster than anyone could have imagined, from a raging crowd of over 47,000 to silent in a moment.
Mike Hughes, the secondary’s savior from Garden City, closed this one back up. Hughes took the ensuing kick return to the house after shifting the momentum once with an interception, giving UCF a 49-42 lead back with just 1:28 to play in the game.
“I was on the headset kind of in disbelief that we just gave up that touchdown,” said Frost. “We had some busts in coverage today and had a huge mistake on that long touchdown at the end. I said on the headset that I hope we can get a decent return here.”
Hughes was beyond decent, once again.
“He’s been a difference maker on our football team all year, he’s been a good teammate, and we’re happy that he’s here.”
The back and forth last few minutes perfectly encapsulated a rivalry game that delivered on all fronts. UCF jumped out to an early 21-7 lead, but would not score again until late in the third quarter. Quinton Flowers single-handedly willed the Bulls to stay in the game with over 600 yards of offense, just 48 short of the team’s production total.
Milton answered with 29 completions for 373 yards and four touchdowns of his own through the air, grinding out 56 yards and another score on the ground. To Frost, it was a cherry on top of the incredible season his hand-picked playmaker has had.
“McKenzie Milton is one of the best football players in the country. He makes plays he’s supposed to make, he makes plays he’s not supposed to make. I about wrung his neck when he pitched it over top of somebody on that last drive, but how do you stop the kid form making those plays? He’s lights-out,” said Frost.
“He’s not getting enough credit for what he does out on the football field, my opinion he should be in the Heisman race. If you look at his numbers and what he’s done, I’m not usually one to call attention to an individual player because it’s about the team and winning. McKenzie Milton is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, bar none.”
Milton stands alone with the second-most touchdowns thrown in a single season after the four scores, just one behind Ryan Schneider’s record with 30 on the season.
He will get a chance to take the lead for his own next week, in the American Athletic Conference Championship – held at the Bounce House. Just another game, right?