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War on I-4 Recap: Lord, You Can Take Me Now

Knights Beat South Florida 49-42 in Insane Finish

Mike Hughes USF War on I-4
UCFs Mike Hughes races to the end zone on his game-winning 95-yard kickoff return against USF. Photo: Derek Warden

My God. Did that all really happen?

That was the greatest game in UCF Football history, hands down.

If you're a UCF fan, you'll remember where you watched this game as long as you live.

Black Friday. Quinton Flowers. The 4th quarter. The return. The fumble. When a game is known for moments that you can recognize by just two or three words, it's an all-timer.

It's what we all hoped the War on I-4 would one day be, and hard as it is to believe, it exceeded the hype.

This recap won't be like our others. Instead, we're just going to list off the things we'll always remember from this epic and wild Black Friday.

First, the lead:

The Highlights

That. Place. Was. Lit.

Like, literally:

But aside from that, the attendance was 47,129 - The third-largest crowd in Spectrum Stadium history (behind the 2009 Miami game and the 2013 South Carolina game, both of which were losses) and the fifth-largest crowd in school history (trailing the 2005 C-USA Championship and the 2000 Virginia Tech "Fill the Bowl" game).

So this was the largest home crowd to ever witness a UCF win.

And as nuts as it was in the stadium, it looked just as, if not more, nuts on TV.

Good on you, Knight Nation. You came through.

No One Wanted to Cover Tyre McCants

So he picked up 201 yards receiving in the first half.

However, he finished with 227. So let's give credit to the secondary for making the necessary adjustments in the second half.

However, as they did, this guy took over:

Quinton Flowers giveth

Unreal. Here' was Flowers' line:

  • Passing: 24/45, 503 yards, 4 TD, INT
  • Rushing: 20 carries, 102 yards, TD

So in all, that's 65 of USF's 84 plays, 605 total yards of offense and five total touchdowns. This smashed the previous record for most total yards by an opposing player (previously held by Tim Rattay of Louisiana Tech) and was the best individual performance by a player in all of college football this year.

And USF still lost.

And Quinton Flowers Taketh Away

But then he ruined it all with this:

You have to wonder: If this was the NFL and Roger Goodell was in charge of discipline, what would Flowers' punishment be? A fine? A suspension? Exile to Kamchatka?

I've read all about Quinton Flowers. I wouldn't wish the crap he's been through in his short life on my worst enemy. The kid walked out on Senior Day at USF with nobody because there's nobody left in his family to walk out with him.

But that's no excuse for doing the most disgusting and classless thing I've ever seen on a football field. And as someone who grew up rooting for Miami in the early '90s as a kid, that's saying something.

The Fourth Quarter

UCF scored 21 points in the 4th after being down 34-28, and all three of those touchdowns happened in the final 7:33.

That was 213 yards of total offense in the final 15 minutes, and that did not include Mike Hughes' kickoff return, which we'll get to in a second.

But it was UCF's first come-from-behind-in-the-4th victory of the year.

It also included:

53 Seconds of Pure Crazy

Three touchdowns plus a two-point conversion. Which was capped off by:

The Return

Frame that. We will remember where we were the rest of our lives when Mike Hughes brought back that kick.

Let's watch that again:

And again:

Of course, it still wasn't over, until:

The Fumble

Conference USA officiating digs aside, a game with almost 1,200 yards of total offense gets decided by a defensive play.

And remember this name: Richie Grant. The redshirt freshman from Fort Walton Beach had just 26 tackles, one tackle for loss and two passes defended all year, and that was his first career forced fumble.

It called to mind Jordan Ozerities' interception to seal the 2013 game:

So Richie Grant saves the season. What a day. Good thing just ebout everyone saw it.

The Audience

Mike Aresco is a frickin' genius because exactly what he hoped for happened: His marquee game landed in the marquee time slot, and EVERYONE paid attention:

If you're sitting in the big chair back in Providence, this is EXACTLY what you wanted. Everyone got home from a busy day shopping, plopped down on the couch with some leftovers, and turned on the game. And they saw the game of the year in college football.

Now, if you're The American, you have the ammo to tell the College Football Playoff Committee that there are no excuses anymore. This was Peak College Football. We just gave America the game of the year and now everyone knows it. To deny this, and thus to deny UCF's place in the national conversation, is simply to engage in rank collusion.

Next Up

Two straight weekends on ABC at home, this time with a conference title on the line.

UCF handled Memphis pretty good in the first matchup, but that was a long time ago.

This one's for all the marbles, so the fans had better show up to this too.

The Last Word

It belongs to Shaquill Griffin, whom we wish could have been here:

An unreal ending to an unreal day.