FINAL: UCF 31-Memphis 30
In a tale of two halves, UCF’s defense dominated late and the offense came to life in the second half to extend the Knights’ winning streak to 19 games.
First Half: Memphis Dominant
Memphis running back Darrell Henderson rushed for nearly 200 yards on the game, including 12 carries for 115 yards and 1 TD in the first quarter alone. UCF trailed 20-7 and 30-14 in the first half while Memphis looked like the top-10 team.
Everything that a team needs to happen to win on the road seemed to escape the grasp of the Knights, who faced a significant deficit for the first time in 2018. Penalties. Gashing run plays on defense. Tipped passes. Sacks (UCF only gave up 2 sacks games 1-5, Memphis had 4 on the day). Stalled offensive drives. Below average 3rd down conversion rates on offense and defense.
After falling behind 30-14, the Knights scored a field goal on a 2-minute drive to end the first half. With Memphis receiving the ball to begin the second half, the 3 points to end the first half proved crucial for the Knights in a comeback bid.
Second Half: Heavy Rain and a UCF Comeback
Memphis’ defense continued to play well to begin the second half. The D-line continued to pressure UCF QB McKenzie Milton and the Knights’ offense sputtered. UCF’s defense, though, seemed to find an answer to Henderson. UCF and Memphis traded punts on the first five possessions of the second half.
Then the rain came.
Heavy rain at times forced UCF and Memphis coaches to change play calling as both teams struggled with fumbles.
The game changed on a single play late in the 3rd quarter. On their own 29 yard line, UCF broke their huddle quickly near the line of scrimmage, lined up in a big formation, and Taj McGowan broke a 71-yard TD run off the right side of the line after Memphis committed to the inside (the formation resembled other running plays where the Knights ran up the middle). The TD pulled the Knights to within one score.
After the TD drive for the Knights, the teams traded lost fumbles as the weather deteriorated.
Memphis was driving the ball down the field at the end of the third quarter. UCF’s Nevelle Clarke received an unsportsmanlike penalty extending the drive. A Memphis score would likely have signaled the end for a UCF team that seemed to be losing their composure.
But on the first play of the 4th quarter, Memphis ran a jet sweep and fumbled a very wet ball that was recovered by UCF. Eight plays and 74 yards later, the Knights scored what would become the winning TD.
Memphis had one last chance to end the Knights’ 18-game streak. Brady White completed a 31-yard pass to Damonte Coxie to bring the Tigers to midfield with about one minute left in the game. Memphis converted a huge third down to bring the Tigers to the edge of field goal range.
With no time outs left, Memphis declined to spike the ball to stop the clock and decided to run a play. Trevon Tate committed a false start penalty that also included a 10-second runoff because the clock was running at the time. The ball was outside of field goal range, forcing the Tigers to attempt a long pass play to set up a game-winning field goal. White completed a pass to Tony Pollard, who was tackled in bounds by UCF defender Rashard Causey to end the game.
What It Means for UCF
UCF won despite playing poorly on offense and defense. This character-building win sets up the Knights for a stretch run against several good teams including undefeated Cincinnati and South Florida. The Knights’ defense again faced a good running back and performed relatively well in the absence of defensive leader Pat Jasinski who appeared to suffer an injury early the game.