While some reading this may be surprised to see the UCF Knights’ October 13th regular season tilt at Memphis ranked ahead of the American Championship win over the Tigers in December, consider this:
The 10th ranked Knights came in at 5-0 on the season, but had not been tested yet under first-year Head Coach Josh Heupel. That would change this particular Saturday, as UCF would find themselves in a battle against the Tigers, trailing 30-14 at one point in the first half and 30-17 at halftime. UCF would also have to deal with Mother Nature, as rain and wind were factors in the second half.
Heupel would make the call of the season late in the 3rd quarter, trailing 30-17 and facing 4th-and-1 at the Memphis 29. Heupel sent his offense on the field and gave the ball to Taj McGowan. With the Tigers’ defense bunched at the line of scrimmage, McGowan burst through the line, and thanks to a tremendous block by DL Trysten Hill, who came in as a fullback in short yardage, went 71 yards for a touchdown.
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
It was the play that helped turn around the game as UCF would score again in 4th quarter on McKenzie Milton’s touchdown run and hold off Memphis 31-30 to improve to 6-0 and extend the nation’s longest win streak to 19 games.
It would be the third largest comeback in program history at the time, only to be topped by the 17-point comeback win in The American title game.
However, if UCF did not come back in this game, does the season fall apart at this point and do they even make the AAC title game? Does losing to Memphis here give the Tigers the confidence to close the deal on the Knights in the second half that they were not able to do?
Those are up for debate. What is not up for debate is if UCF does not come back and win this game, the long win streak comes to an end, which means UCF would not get to host ESPN College GameDay on campus in November as a one-loss UCF team taking on Cincinnati. They came to see the team that had the longest winning streak in the nation.
That does not happen without this comeback win. If UCF lost this game, they become an afterthought the rest of the season, with critics saying 2017 was a fluke. Instead UCF would extend the streak to 25 games and stay in the national media conversation.
UCF would win the AAC title in comeback fashion against a fragile Tigers team that already had experience in blowing a big lead against UCF. All of that was possible thanks to the Knights’ comeback at Memphis.