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INSTANT REAX: #9 UCF Overcomes KZ’s Injury to Smother South Florida, 38-10

Greg McCrae leads Knights to their 24th consecutive win and the War on I-4 Trophy in Tampa

NCAA Football: Central Florida at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get this out of the way first: The story of this game is not going to be the fact that UCF won. The story is going to be McKenzie Milton’s leg injury, whether he’ll be OK, how bad it is, and how long he’ll be out for.

There will be plenty of time and space to more fully examine that and its ramifications.

For now, though, we’ll celebrate what we can celebrate: a resounding victory for the UCF Knights in Tampa against the South Florida Bulls.

The Highlights

Let’s Go McCrae-zy

Greg McCrae, man. Unbelievable.

The former walk-on-turned-scholarship-player-turned-featured-back picked up 181 yards on just 16 carries, and scored on runs of 40, 39 and 31 yards.

On the season, McCrae has a team-best 895 yards on 99 carries - an average of 9.0 yards per rush - and 8 TDs. He’s also gone for 99+ yards in four of his last five games.

McCrae’s growing reputation as a closer is self-evident. Clearly he’s the ace in the Knights’ now, even though Adrian Killins Jr has the team lead in carries.

Defense Does The Job

Credit again to Randy Shannon and his defense. The Knights held South Florida to 10 points, their lowest point total since UCF shut the Bulls out in Tampa back in 2014.

The Bulls were also 5/18 on 3rd downs and 0/2 on 4th downs, including a game-changing goal-line stand in the first half that set the tone for the rest of the game.

In all, South Florida either punted or turned the ball over on 12 of 15 possessions.

After South Florida scored their only touchdown to get within 17-10 in the third, the defense allowed the following:

  • Four possessions
  • 12 plays
  • -4 total yards

That’s championship defense.

Toughness Wins

Say what you will about the coaching staff, but this team is mentally tough.

To overcome the emotional devastation of seeing McKenzie Milton go down as he did, and then to rise to the occasion and make their opponent and arch rival just quit right there on the field, is a testament to Josh Heupel and his “Go 1-0” philosophy.

That was a performance. Brian Murphy has more on that.

Get Your Mack On

It’s not easy for a backup QB to come in following an injury to a starter, particularly an injury as devastating as McKenzie Milton’s was. By all accounts, Darriel Mack Jr and Milton are pretty tight:

Mack finished the evening just 5/14 for 81 yards (to be fair, he was victimized by a few drops), but also picked up 51 yards on 10 carries, and ran the offense efficiently, chalking up 31 points and suffering only three 3-and-outs in his 11 possessions.

Mack performed admirably against ECU, and as our own Brian Murphy tweeted, UCF playing him in that game seems prescient now.

Numbers That Never Lie

  • UCF has won 24 games in a row. Let that sink in.
  • Josh Heupel is 11-0 in his first season as a head coach.
  • UCF’s defense has recorded a turnover in 30 consecutive games.
  • The Knights have also scored 30 points in 24 straight games, tying a record set by South Florida last year (in the AP Poll Era). Their streak was snapped by Houston in a home loss.
  • Next week, UCF plays Memphis for the conference championship, and for the 4th time in 15 months.

Next Up

Final Thought

I’m just struck by the juxtaposition of last week’s jubilation and this week’s devastation. I don’t know what the future holds for McKenzie Milton or UCF in the coming days, weeks or months, and I care not to speculate.

All I know is life comes at you faster than any oncoming linebacker. And that these young men who play this game do so at incredible risk. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Hopefully we can all reflect on that in the coming days as we await news on McKenzie Milton and hope for his full and complete recovery.