DALLAS, Tex.—UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was not at his typical efficient self and the Knight offense did not put up its typical gaudy scoring numbers Saturday night at Gerald Ford Stadium.
Nonetheless, the Knights earned a hard-fought 31-24 victory, remaining the only undefeated team and top ranked team in the CSJ Sagarin rankings of the Group of Five and on track for a major New Year’s Day bowl game should they win out.
UCF (8-0, 5-0 AAC) did put up more crazy offensive statistics, with 615 total yards but the Knights went down to the wire against SMU.
UCF opened the game by driving to the SMU 11-yard line only to turn the ball over on downs. That set the tone for a tough scoring night.
UCF had one other possession end inside the 20-yard line after a Jordan Akins fumble at the SMU 7-yard line and Milton also threw two interceptions, including a pick-six by SMU defensive back Jordan Wyatt.
“We had plenty of chances to make this a little more comfortable and their (SMU) players played really well,” UCF Coach Scott Frost said.
While Milton did put up some good passing numbers, it was running back Adrian Killins as the offensive star for UCF.
The sophomore turned on the afterburners to blast past SMU defenders on two touchdown runs that were critical to UCF remaining unbeaten.
Killins rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, helping the Knights overcome several stalled drives.
SMU’s best opportunity at an upset fizzled with 5:10 remaining when wideout Trey Quinn dropped a pass on fourth-and-3 that would have given the Mustangs (6-3, 3-2 AAC) a first down deep in UCF territory.
The game definitely wasn’t the offensive shootout that was expected. UCF entered the weekend averaging 51 points, the most in the nation. SMU was averaging 41.5 points.
Still, there were plenty of explosive plays throughout. Two of UCF’s scoring drives lasted three plays or less but covered at least 75 yards.
Killins two touchdowns were from 64 yards and 34 yards out for UCF, splitting defenders and shedding would-be tacklers along the way. And early in the second quarter, Milton found wide receiver Gabriel Davis down the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown strike.
SMU scored on its first offensive play from scrimmage when Ben Hicks connected with James Proche for an 86-yard touchdown player. The sophomore receiver made five defenders miss on the catch-and-run, following a couple blockers down the sideline to the end zone.
SMU, however, also had its share of miscues.
There were drops by Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn in the fourth quarter, Ke’Mon Freeman’s fumble, overthrows by Ben Hicks and several missed tackles by the defense.
”There’s a reason they’re undefeated,” SMU coach Chad Morris said. ”But we’re a program that’s trending in the right direction. One game does not change the direction that we’re heading.”
Milton, who had thrown just three interceptions entering the game, threw two against SMU. He finished throwing 23-of-40 for 412 yards and added 44 more on the ground with another touchdown.
The Knights have UConn at home next week and then close out the regular season with a trip to Temple and home against South Florida.
The Mustangs travel to Navy and Memphis before closing at home against Tulane.
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football is the Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
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