Man. What a game. Games like that are terrible if you lose but so great if you win. And there were a LOT of 50/50 moments throughout UCF’s 31-30 comeback win over a game Memphis squad in the driving rain in the Liberty Bowl. But fortunately for the Knights, they found a way to win their 19th consecutive game.
Here are your instant reactions.
This One Was HUGE
It really had been a while since UCF faced some real adversity.
With two minutes left in the first half, UCF was down 30-14 on the road, with a sputtering offense and a defense that couldn’t tackle. Matt Wright’s field goal before the half seemed more like a missed opportunity than a step in the right direction.
Last time @UCF_Football trailed by 2 scores was ‘16 Cure Bowl— Jamie Seh (@jamieseh) October 13, 2018
But the Knights scored 14 points in the second half and, more importantly, held Memphis to zero en route to a dramatic comeback win.
It seemed at times in the second half like everything was going against this team: The start, the crowd, the breaks, the weather. And yet they found a way.
Some games teach you a lot about your team. This game was even more than that. Overcoming what they had to overcome like this can prove to the players and the coaches that there’s no mountain they can’t climb.
Randy Shannon Stepped It Up
At halftime, with UCF trailing, the refrain on Twitter was predictable: WHY CAN’T WE TACKLE?
But let’s give Randy Shannon some real credit here: His defense pitched a shutout in the second half when it absolutely had to. Consider Memphis’ stats in the second half:
Working on our Instant Reaction column for tonight’s game.— Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon) October 14, 2018
Randy Shannon deserves HUGE credit for his halftime adjustments. Again. #UCF
Darrell Henderson looked like he could do no wrong in the first half. In the second half, it was a different story:
Check this out (Corrected): pic.twitter.com/KSlUFehs1q— Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon) October 14, 2018
Mind you that apparently Pat Jasinski was banged up and spent some time on the sideline in the first half, when this was the public sentiment:
No, but seriously, fire Randy Shannon.— Ryan Bass (@Ry_Bass) October 13, 2018
But seriously, how about no.
KZ’s Heisman Moment?
Statistically, this was not a #HIsman performance for McKenzie Milton. He finished the day 17/29 for 296 yards and one touchdown, a 75-yarder to Gabe Davis. He also fumbled the ball away once in the Memphis rain when UCF had a chance to take the lead in the second half.
But all great players have a moment where they decide they must do something right now that their team desperately needs them to do, and to hell with everything else, including their own well-being.
McKenzie Milton’s right now moment was this:
The Flyin Hawaiian pic.twitter.com/kNTxxpGLds— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 14, 2018
He didn’t have the greatest game (17/29, 296 yards, one TD, sacked 4 times), but when he needed to make a play, he did.
When you make plays like that with your season on the line, that really is #HIsman worthy.
Josh Heupel Rolls The Dice
The turning point of the game came as UCF faced a 4th-and-1 at its own 28, down 30-17 with 2:51 to go in the third.
UCF came out to punt, but then a timeout was called. So they lined up to go for it in short-yardage, and Memphis had to burn a timeout.
Then Josh Heupel really rolled the dice. He sent the offense back out with the intent to get the first down.
They got more than that:
Here’s another look at @trystenhill9’s key block on Taj McGowan’s 71-yard TD run on 4th and 2 late in Q3.— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCF_Banneret) October 14, 2018
The Block That Saved #UCF’s Season: pic.twitter.com/uWnuY854wU
He sent the offense back out there and, to the surprise of many, including play-by-play man Dave LaMont and probably Memphis’ defense, the Knights didn’t try to draw Memphis offside - They ran the play.
McKenzie Milton on the play call:
4th & 1 on your own 29... pic.twitter.com/Wz7bQREDWa— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 15, 2018
71 yards through the raindrops later, Taj McGowan was in the end zone and the Knights were back in it.
Trysten Hill and The Block That Saved The Season
But the play within the play was DL Trysten Hill, who lined up at fullback and delivered the key block, springing McGowan for the breakaway:
Just call me Miley pic.twitter.com/z9P8liG2Yb— Trey9️⃣ (@trystenhill9) October 16, 2018
We might look back on this play as not just the one that changed the game, but changed the season.
Darrell Henderson is for real
Let’s pour one out for Darrell Henderson and the Memphis offensive line, who put on a show today, especially in the first half. He is truly a special back, and that Memphis line made mincemeat of UCF’s front seven for a solid portion of this game.
Thank heavens we don’t have to deal with them again.
Next Up: East Carolina
Final: Houston 42 ECU 20— ECU Football (@ECUPiratesFB) October 14, 2018