We thought it couldn't get much better than Maryland last week. Then it did.
An utterly dominant performance on both sides of the ball vaulted UCF past Memphis, 40-13, in a game that wasn't even that close.
And the best part was they did it in style:
And from UCF Athletics:
About last night...— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2017
Roll the highlights! pic.twitter.com/d7kUWvpiCJ
The offense. This was exactly what we were expecting to see from Scott Frost's offense. The Knights racked up 603 yards of total offense on 80 plays (7.5 per play!), including 350 on the ground at a 7.1 yard-per-carry clip.
Oh, and the time of possession with all that offense? 37:23 for the Knights to 22:37 for Memphis. Almost two-to-one.
Told you this was a running offense. Adrien Killins, McKenzie Milton and Taj McGowan all had 50+ yards rushing each, and Otis Anderson had 48.
The defense. Memphis came into last night averaging 43 points per game through their first three, including hanging 48 on UCLA.
They came away with just 13 last night, and had just seven through until the final play of the game. A garbage-time touchdown pass from Riley Ferguson put them in double figures as the clock hit zeroes. UCF also forced four turnovers, including three interceptions.
Ferguson was 27/49 for 321 yards, a TD and three picks, but Memphis' rushing attack was completely stymied. The Tigers picked up just 75 yards on the ground on 24 attempts, despite averaging 219 yards on the ground coming in.
For all the hype about UCF's offense, it was the defense that was the unsung heroes once again.
The crowd. 34,022, well below what UCF was hoping for. Orlando City drew 24,007 for their game just a bit earlier in the day, which may have siphoned off some attendees. But still, there was plenty of hype coming into this game after the Maryland win, and still there were 10,000 empty seats.
The first drive of the game. So we're used to thinking quick strike with UCF's newfangled offense. But after the Knights got the opening kickoff, they went on a march that George O'Leary himself would have been proud of: 17 plays (13 runs, 4 passes), 92 yards, 6:49 of possession, ending with Taj McGowan's one-yard plunge.
Adrien Killins' 96-yard touchdown. Get used to seeing this a LOT on the highlights in the coming days, weeks, and maybe years:
The 96-yard outburst was:
- The longest TD run in school history
- The longest TD run in American Athletic Conference history
- The second-longest run in FBS play this season.
This is exactly what we were hoping for when Killins got here.
The Turning Point
Pat Jasinski's recovery of Riley Ferguson's fumble in the second quarter. There was a point in the game where things looked in doubt. In the second quarter, UCF was up 9-7, and the Tigers were driving.
A 35-yard completion from Ferguson to Tony Pollard set Memphis up with a first-and-goal at the UCF 5, and a chance to take a 14-9 lead.
But Ferguson missed Anthony Miller on first down, and then on the next play, Shaquem Griffin, who had been relatively quiet all season to this point, sacked a scrambling Ferguson and forced the ball out. Pat Jasinski fell on the football, and that ended the Tigers’ last threat to re-take the lead.
After both teams traded punts, UCF got the ball on its own four, and then Killins ripped off his record-breaking run.
A Mike Hughes interception and Milton-to-Tre’Quan Smith TD pass later, the Knights were up 23-7 before halftime, and Memphis was done.
But the key to that sequence was Shaquem Griffin, who made the big play when his team needed it, as he always seemed to do last year.
The Top 25?
So now our attention turns to whether UCF will have a number next to its name this week.
Right now, the Knights are 25th in ESPN's Power Rankings.
The Knights were receiving 4 votes in the Coaches' Poll, and 13 in the AP Poll (USF is 17th and 18th, respectively). The question is whether the balance of UCF's 3-0 start is enough for them to catch the eyes of national voters. Highlights like Adrien Killins' 96-yard TD run and eye-popping offensive numbers may indeed raise a few eyebrows, but will it be enough?
For my money, yes, UCF should be ranked. But of course I think that. I'm not a beatwriter in Boise or a coach at UMass. Scott Frost's name recognition may help out the Knights' case, but again, it may take another couple of impressive wins for UCF to make an iron-clad case for a spot in the Top 25.
Stats of the Night
Cincinnati, who is going to be pretty ticked after getting clobbered at home by Marshall of all teams. This game will also be at Cincy, where the fans are, well, restless:
8 p.m. next Saturday on ESPNU.