It finally happened. With Justin Holman on the shelf, Scott Frost finally turned over the keys to his offense to his prized 18-year-old, 5-11, 170-pound true freshman quarterback, McKenzie Milton.
And you know what? Not bad at all.
Now, his first career start will go down as his first career loss at home to Maryland in double-overtime. This one stings. But this game felt like trying a new, delicious recipe that you've always wanted to make yourself but couldn't, and then when you finally cook it, it's not quite the same as what you remember, but you also know what you're going to next time to really nail it.
Milton. 21/36, 260 yards, two TD passes and one interception on a tipped ball. He accounted for all three of UCF's touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). He officially tallied 19 rushes for a net total of 7 yards, but he was able to escape pressure for positive yardage on more than a few occasions. He also led a very balances attack (195 yards rushing, 260 passing) that controlled the line of scrimmage until late. For a true freshman making his first career start, he was poised and impressive with his command of the offense.
As Frost said Monday:
Frost: McKenzie can turn lemons into lemonades really quick. We’ve seen him do it all fall camp, actually you guys haven’t seen anything yet— osknights (@osknights) September 19, 2016
The run defense. After an impressive performance against Michigan, UCF's run defense got hit and hit hard, especially as the game wore on. Maryland gained 246 yards on 50 carries (just shy of five yards a carry) and scored all of their touchdowns on the ground. UCF's front seven was worn down in the overtime, as the Terps scored touchdowns in both overtime possessions on a total of five plays, all quarterback runs.
The four turnovers. Milton tried to do too much on occasion, which is to be expected from a freshman. He threw one pick which was an overthrown tipped ball, and fumbled six times, losing three of them, including the last one in the second overtime that killed UCF's chance to win the game. These are easily correctable mistakes, and part of the growing pains associated with running a brand new offense with a brand-new quarterback.
The pass defense. Maryland QB Perry Hills managed to hit just 10/23 for 127 yards, with no TDs and no INTs. Take away one 51-yard completion and he was 9/22 for 76 yards. Maryland had to run the ball to win, because UCF's secondary was outstanding. UCF's pass coverage also enabled the front seven to record five sacks (two by Tony Guerad).
The Turning Point
The fumble in the second overtime. It happened on a third-and-goal at the Maryland two-yard line with the Terps' defense reeling. Milton ran out of time, rolled left, and it was difficult to determine initially if he fumbled or threw a forward pass:
However, the AAC replay officials ruled it a fumble after a LONG review, and UCF came away with no points. Two plays later, the game was over.
Stat of the Night
Attendance: 43,107. It sure sounded like it:
I liked this comment from a Terps fan at their SB Nation site. pic.twitter.com/JeQ92YFDBs— AYY AYY SEE SPEED (@CFBAsterisk) September 18, 2016
That's the most since UCF beat BYU in 2014. The South Carolina State game drew 36,260. More to come, hopefully.
Irrational Overreaction of the Week
UCF would be ranked if we didn't have to play offense or special teams— Standard UCF (@UCF_National) September 18, 2016
Oh, come on. Offense was the highlight against Michigan.
Game 4 – Bring on the Knights; #FIU Hosts UCF Saturday #CUSAFB https://t.co/ivpMtyU6mm— FIU Football (@FIUFootball) September 20, 2016
Don't sleep on this one. The all-time series is tied 2-2. FIU beat UCF in 2011, when we were rudely introduced to T.Y. Hilton, and then again last year in the opener, which started the Knights' slide into oblivion.
Like it or not, UCF is now 1-2 and on a two-game losing streak. This game just became a must-win.