Senior wide receiver Kendall Sanders hauled in three touchdowns, and the Arkansas State defense manhandled the Knights with six sacks, a blocked punt, three forced fumbles, and 15 tackles for a loss, earning the Red Wolves an 8th win for the season and its third bowl win in its last six tries.
Both defenses opened the game hot, forcing immediate three-and-outs. But a Kyle Wilson sack of McKenszie Milton on the UCF 14 led to a Johnston White blocked punt and a BJ Edmonds recovery in the end zone to put the Red Wolves on the board. The Red Wolves were up 17-0 in the first quarter, thanks to a chip-shot field goal and later a forced fumbled on a kick off that led to the first Kendall Sanders TD reception.
But UCF bounced back in the second quarter, scoring 10 unanswered, including an 11-yard Milton to Taylor Oldham TD pass that came after the stout UCF defense forced a fumble.
The second half saw the Red Wolves create some offense, with Kendall Sanders (127 yards, 3 TDs) collecting two more touchdown passes from Justice Hansen (205 yards, 3 TDs). The last from the senior wide receiver, a 17 yarder, put the game out of reach.
Notes and Observations
Kendall Sanders’ 3 TD, 127 yard effort earned him AutoZone Cure Bowl MVP honors.
UCF’s all-conference linebacker, Shaquem Griffen, was held mostly in check with seven total tackles and half a sack.
This is the Red Wolves first bowl win since the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl over Ball State, and the first for head coach Blake Anderson.
Defense was king on both sides; both offenses were held to less than 250 total yards (A-State 234 yards, UCF 223 yards)
Neither UCF nor Arkansas State saw much in the run game: 29 yards for A-State, and 12 yards for UCF
Sun Belt Player of the Year Ja’Von Rolland-Jones collected two more sacks, included a strip sack on Milton to ice the game.
The Knights introduced a helmet featuring a sticker that seemed to imply inclusion into something called the “P6.”
Whatever. That’s cool. The “Power” conferences are the same guys that prevent the AAC and the Sun Belt from making NCAA decisions, but sure, call yourself a power conference. They’ll probably listen and welcome you as brothers. Then the Knight’s decided to continue with the pretentious behavior.
Guess that didn’t work out so well.