The good news for the UCF Knights is that, margin be damned, they went up against a very good Memphis Tigers team in a rematch, took every punch that Mike Norvell’s squad had to throw, and came away with a double-overtime victory that likely seals their spot in the Peach Bowl.
Even better, they’ll now get a chance to earn the respect that the playoff committee refuses to give them by playing (more than likely) a P5 conference runner-up and an opportunity to end the year ranked in the top 10.
The downside, of course, is that they’ll be doing it without the services of Scott Frost now that he heads back to coach at his alma mater and try to right the ship for the Huskers.
Riley Ferguson threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns, but his last three passes were just missing Darrell Henderson for a game-tying touchdown, hitting Anthony Miller for a first down, and then trying to avoid a sack by tossing his first interception of the day to seal the win for the Knights.
Mackenzie Milton, meanwhile, put on a show for all the UCF fans to get excited about the Peach Bowl and beyond, throwing for 494 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for another 64 yards and a score.
Milton hit a late first-half lull that saw him complete as many passes to Memphis as to his own team (2), but came right back out slinging it to open the second half as he started off 9-for-9 for 139 yards and two touchdowns plus a 16-yard touchdown run.
The incompletion that ended that run produced a field goal for UCF, and they had turned a 31-24 halftime deficit into a 48-34 lead. Unfortunately for the Knights, the defense couldn’t stop the big plays and when the offense hit their second lull of the game the Memphis offense needed only nine plays to get two touchdowns to tie the game.
A poorly-timed interception as time wore out by Milton took away their chance for a regulation game-winning field goal, but the option pitch carried the day in overtime, and one last successful pass rush by a defense that racked up four sacks (two by Shaquem Griffin) ended the drama with a Knights victory.
We’ll see what happens with the playoff rankings, as #12 Stanford and #11 TCU have both now lost, and the only team ranked below them that has played is the one they just beat. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some top ten action!