If Thursday night’s 61-point onslaught against FIU was any indication, I think we have an answer: Yes.
Let us take a moment to admire Milton’s performance because it was exactly that: a virtuoso performance.
More accurately, it was an ass-whoopin’:
Milton was the one administering said whoopin’ from the first series.
Consider the first two plays from scrimmage:
- 1st & 10, UCF 25 – Killins rush, no gain.
- 2nd & 10, UCF 25 – Hamilton rush for one yard.
So it was a 3rd & 9 after UCF could not loosen up FIU’s front seven on the first two downs. No problem. Next four plays:
- 3rd and 9, UCF 26 – Milton pass complete to Tre’Quan Smith for 19 yards, 1st Down.
- 1st and 10, UCF 45 – Milton pass complete to Gabe Davis for 26 yards, 1st Down.
- 1st & 10, FIU 29 – Milton pass complete to Gabe Davis for 7 yards.
- 2nd & 3, FIU 26 – Milton pass complete to Jordan Akins for 26 yards, TOUCHDOWN UCF.
— American Football (@American_FB) August 31, 2017
Six plays, 75 yards, 2:02, plus a two-point conversion. Not a bad way to nail your season-opening possession.
You might think it was on from there, but there was a danger point five minutes into the first, after Jawon Hamilton’s fumble led to a 75-yard TD pass for FIU. We’ve seen that before: UCF jumps out to a lead, the other guys counter-punch, and boom, we’re in a dogfight.
After a Taj McGowan rush for one yard, Milton did this:
- 2nd & 16, UCF 07 – Milton pass complete to Emmanuel Logan-Greene for 12 yards.
- 3rd & 4, UCF 19 – Milton pass complete to Dredrick Snelson for 25 yards, 1st Down.
- 1st & 10, UCF 44 – Milton pass complete to Dredrick Snelson for 6 yards.
- 2nd & 4, UCF 50 – Milton pass complete to Tre’Quan Smith for 50 yards, TOUCHDOWN UCF.
McKenzie Milton is 9 for 9 with 167 yards and 2 TD…
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) August 31, 2017
If you’re scoring at home, that’s 8/8 for 167 and 2 TDs in the first 7:32 of the season.
But in the second, another danger zone. This time, it was Milton’s own doing, as he lobbed an interception down the middle of the field to FIU’s Olin Cushion.
But the defense picked him up and forced FIU into a field goal.
Up 14-10 in the very next possession, Milton then ran for a loss of one on first down and threw an incompletion on second down. 3rd & 11 on his own 29 and FIU’s bringing the house.
- 3rd & 4, UCF 29 – Milton pass complete to Dredrick Snelson for 61 yards, 1st Down.
- 1st & Goal, FIU 10 – Milton pass complete to Gabe Davis for 10 yards, TOUCHDOWN UCF.
15/19, 362 yards and 3 TDs in the first half. 40-10 UCF at the half. And all we could say was, WOW.
Milton was as methodical in picking apart FIU as he has ever been in a UCF uniform. Even his best performance last year still showed some freshman-ish moments:
But the one interception aside, this was a confident quarterback in complete command of an offense that possessed, as CBS Sports Network Play-by-Play Announcer Sean Grande called it, “a clown car of talent on the offensive side of the ball.”
He hit eight different receivers and finished 16/21 for 360 yards and 4 TDs.
That’s what this offense is supposed to look like. And when that happens, you get numbers that look like this:
- Most points UCF had scored since the home conference opener against UConn in 2013 (62 points).
- Most points in an opener since 2011 vs. Charleston Southern.
- Most passing yards in a game for a UCF QB since Blake Bortles at Temple in ’13 (404 yards).
- Highest pass yards per attempt in a single game ever, minimum 15 attempts (next closest: Daunte Culpepper in 1998).
Look, I get it. It’s easy to overreact positively to this. And count me among the people who had their doubts about Milton coming into 2017.
Well, maybe not doubts, but I still wanted to see him prove it after last year’s semi-breakdown in the second half of the year.
One side note: It looks like Milton deleted his Twitter account this offseason. Smart move. It’s a small thing, but nonetheless an indication of his off-season dedication to the task at hand: Being the best UCF quarterback he can be.
McKenzie Milton gave me 360 reasons to shut up and slow-clap. And damn, that was fun. Everything worked like it was supposed to, and McKenzie Milton showed everyone how to do it.
Next up: Memphis, who gave up 29 in a monsoon to Louisiana-Monroe. Milton and the Knights have an extra two days to prepare for a home game.
This could get really fun.