BULLS : AFTER THE DUST SETTLES : CENTRAL FLORIDA
By Leo Haggerty
Central Florida completed its second consecutive undefeated regular season with a 38-10 dismantling of South Florida at Raymond James Stadium Friday afternoon. The Knights moved to a perfect 11-0, losing out on a road contest at North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, and will host Memphis in the American Athletic Conference Championship game Saturday.
The Bulls lost their fifth consecutive contest after a 7-0 start. Now, USF will have to wait and see if they get an invitation to a bowl game.
The most significant play, from a UCF standpoint, of the contest took place early in the second quarter. QB McKenzie Milton suffered a season-ending, and possibly career-ending, injury.
In the most gruesome injury that I have ever witnessed, #10 was in the process of being tackled when he was hit from behind while his right leg was immobilized. The result of the hit is so upsetting, even though Photo Journalist Trace Crisp has one of the few close up shots of the injury, we cannot show it. It’s that graphic.
With Milton out, backup QB Darriel Mack Jr. filled in admirable. #8 was a very pedestrian 5-of-14 for 81 plus 51 yards on 10 carries.
The big positive was that the 6’3” Freshman had no interceptions. Also, he orchestrated the offense almost flawlessly reading the option.
For the Bulls on offense, it was another case of having key players out with injuries. QB Blake Barnett was not able to go and the combination of backups Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean just weren’t able to keep up point-for-point with one of the most prolific offenses in college football today.
On defense, the Green & Gold had a very unique game plan. They only put five players in the box to defend the run and dared the Knights to run the football. That strategy worked to perfection as the Bulls DB Nick Roberts picked off Knights QB McKenzie Milton and returned it to the UCF 12.
Sadly, the Green & Gold couldn’t make the Knights pay. In a scoreless contest, on fourth-and-1 from the UCF 3-yard line, RB Jordan Cronkrite was stuffed for no gain on another unimaginative and predictable short yardage halfback dive.
After that debacle by USF, it was all Central Florida scoring 17 unanswered points. South Florida finally got on the scoreboard with a Coby Weeiss FG late in the second period.
The Bulls cut the lead to 17-10 late in the third quarter and there was hope of a USF comeback especially with Milton out of the game with a horrific knee injury. Unfortunately, that’s as close as the Green & Gold would get.
The Knights put up another 21 points using the running game on all three scores. That puts UCF against Memphis in Orlando again for the American Athletic Conference championship.
Now, it’s sit around and wait time to see if USF gets an invite to post-season play. I think they will go bowling but it won’t be as prestigious a one as the South Florida football family had envisioned at the beginning of the campaign.