This game could not have started any worse for the Knights; a huge Darrell Henderson run which resulted in a score from 62 yards out.
Ok, now you might think “not great, but not awful”. But then it gets awful.
UCF QB Darriel Mack Jr. fumbled on the ensuing UCF drive, giving the Tigers the ball at the UCF 27.
Needing a stop, the UCF defense instead gave up a 12-yard touchdown run by Henderson.
UCF eventually started to recover from that early two-score hole, starting with running back Greg McCrae punching it in from 14 yards out, but a few plays later and Memphis was right back in the end zone with a 70-yard run by Patrick Taylor, as the Tigers continually went to a wildcat formation that threw the Knights off.
Mack coughed up another fumble on the next drive, and Memphis would kick a field goal to go up 24-7 at the end of the first quarter. The offense settled and begun to produce after that, but this time Mack’s third fumble of the game went into the end zone and was covered by Michael Colubiale for another score.
The Knights still couldn’t escape the big play, though, and two plays later Henderson had an 82-yard touchdown run. For those keeping track, that’s an insane 207 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in the first half. He was going off.
Memphis took a 38-21 lead into the locker room.
Remember how in last year’s title game, the Tigers led at halftime but eventually lost in overtime?
Remember earlier this year when UCF trailed the Tigers 30-17 at the half and then shut out Memphis in the second half?
In the first half, Henderson had 10 carries for 207 yards and three touchdowns, and Patrick Taylor had another 10 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown.
In the second half, Henderson and Taylor were repeatedly stuffed behind the line as Randy Shannon’s defense repeatedly cranked up the pressure and had much success.
Henderson had six carries for three yards after half. Taylor had five carries for 24 yards. Nothing was working anymore for a Tiger offense whose second half went punt, FG, missed FG, punt.
Meanwhile, the Knights opened the half with two straight touchdowns to make it a three-point game at 38-35.
After holding Memphis to a field goal, UCF started to move the ball down the field at will. It didn’t matter if it was first or fourth down, Greg McCrae and Adrian Killins kept finding seams, hitting the edge and ripping off yards in chunks – the two combined to finish the game with 35 carries for 266 yards and a touchdown of their own.
Oh, and Mack? He had his struggles, but he finished the game with 348 yards passing, more than Mackenzie Milton threw for in any game this season. He also rushed the ball 11 times for 37 yards and three scores, giving him 18, 59 and four for the game.
After their field goal, Memphis moved the ball down the field but was unable to get inside the UCF 20 the rest of the game. One last touchdown drive and a red zone interception sealed the game for the Knights and a 56-41 result that gave them back-to-back conference titles and 25 straight wins.