ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The University of Central Florida Knights entered their “War on I-4” showdown with the University of South Florida with everything to lose. The Knights were playing to keep their undefeated season alive, a chance to host the American Conference Championship game and a potential Big Six bowl game selection.
In one of the wildest games you could imagine, UCF defensive back Mike Hughes’s 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 1:28 to go kept the Knights undefeated season alive.
Hughes, who also had an interception right before halftime, found a seam and broke his second kickoff return for a touchdown this season. The junior, who was averaging over 30 yards a return entering the game, brought the sold-out crowd to its feet and gave the Knights their first “War on I-4” trophy since 2014. With the touchdown return, he became the first UCF player to have multiple kickoff return for touchdowns, since Quincy McDuffie in 2012.
With the victory, the Knights will host the American Athletic Conference Football Championship game next Saturday against the Memphis Tigers, a team they defeated 40-13 on September 30th. If the Knights can win that game, they would secure a spot in the College Football Playoff’s Big Six Bowl Games.
Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton went 29 for 44 for 373 yards and four touchdowns passing and he ran for a three-yard touchdown as well. Milton threw two of his touchdowns in the fourth quarter as he led the Knights back after trailing to start the final quarter for the first time this season.
McKenzie found wide receiver Dredrick Snelson (who caught a 16-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter) for a 45-yard touchdown pass midway through the quarter to give the Knights the lead at 35-34 and found freshman running back Otis Anderson Jr. for a 23-yard touchdown pass to put the Knights ahead by 8 with 2:21 left.
“He’s playing lights out and he’s not getting enough credit for what he does on the football field. In 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, and we have a lot of special players, but McKenzie Milton is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, bar none.” -UCF Head Coach Scott Frost on McKenzie Milton’s performance
South Florida quarterback Quentin Flowers threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Salomon and converted a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 42. Flowers was almost unstoppable all game long. Flowers finished with 503 passing yards and another 102 running. His ability to break tackles and his offensive line’s ability to give him time in the pocket allowed him to be able to give his receivers the chance to make plays.
On an emotionally charged Senior Day, South Florida scored the game’s opening touchdown not even 70 seconds into the game. Flowers found Tyre McCants on a 47-yard touchdown pass, where he dragged a UCF defensive back into the end zone while his jersey was being pulled. McCants finished with nine catches for 227 yards and had set the South Florida single game receiving yards mark when he had 201 midway through the second quarter.
47,129 was the 5th largest audience turnout in UCF history and the third largest in Spectrum Stadium history.
“Man the crowd was unbelievable. The crowd when we showed up to the stadium was unbelievable. The students have been supportive. This community is unbelievable. This place is really special, and I saw a glimpse tonight of what it can be.” – UCF Head Coach Scott Frost on the Crowd
- USF – McCants 47-yard TD catch from Flowers (USF 7-0)
- UCF – Milton 3-yard TD run (Game Tied at 7)
- UCF – Snelson 16-yard TD catch from Milton (UCF 14-7)
- UCF – Killins Jr. 15-yard TD run (UCF 21-7)
- USF – Alaka 20-yard TD catch from Flowers (Missed extra point – UCF 21-13)
- USF – Wilcox 21-yard TD catch from Flowers (UCF 21-20)
- UCF – Davis 23-yard TD catch from Milton (UCF 28-20)
- USF – Tice 6-yard TD run (UCF 28-27)
- USF – Flowers 24-yard TD run (USF 34-28)
- UCF – Snelson 45-yard TD catch rom Milton (UCF 35-34)
- UCF – Anderson Jr. 23-yard TD catch from Milton (UCF 42-34)
- USF – Salomon 83 yard TD catch from Flowers (2-point conversion Flowers to Johnson – Game tied at 42)
- UCF – Hughes 95-yard kickoff return for TD (UCF 49-42)
Danny Thompson is a sports contributor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org