UCF’s opening drive of the season was a quick strike that they have become accustomed to in the Scott Frost era. It was a 6 play 75-yard drive that took 2:17 off the clock and was capped off on a 22-yard TD completion over the middle from McKenzie Milton to Senior tight end Jordan Akins to gettings started for the Knights. They followed that up with a 2-pt conversion to make it 8-0 early on.
After a quick three and out by the FIU offense, UCF was again marching down the field and in the redzone when their first turnover of the season happened. It was a fumble by running back Jawon Hamilton on the 13-yard line, recovered easily by the Panthers. Three plays later, the Panthers made the Knights pay for their mistakes, as Alex McGough completed a 75-yard TD completion to Thomas Owens to make it a 1-point game with the score 8-7 and 9:30 left in the 1st quarter.
The Knights, looking for redemption, once again got a UCFast drive going and in 5 plays they again found themselves in the endzone as Milton this time completed a 50-yd TD pass to Tre’Quan Smith making it a 7 point ball game as it would stand after UCF missed the PAT.
As the second quarter got underway, trouble once again struck the Knights as Milton was intercepted by Shamarke Spence. This put the Panthers in prime position to tie up the game. However, they would be forced to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Jose Borregales to make it a 14-10 deficit for FIU.
UCF was finally able to get thing rolling on the next drive. After Milton connected with Dredrick Snelson for 61 yards, Milton then connected with Gabriel Davis in the endzone for the 10-yard score. This made it 21-10 with 11:44 left in the half.
After quickly failed drives by both teams, the Panthers were pinned back on their own 1-yard line to start their ensuing drive. That would lead to a UCF safety on their first play from scrimmage, which would give the Knights a 13 point lead. Then UCF continued to pour it on. By the half, the Knights led 40-10, with QB McKenzie Milton tallying 357 passing yards on 15 of 19 passing with just 1 interception.
Milton would end his night midway through the 3rd quarter after completing one more TD completion for a career high of 4. At this pont, it was 47-10 UCF with 11 minutes still left in the 3rd quarter.
The Panthers would get a touchdown later on in the 3rd quarter on a 51-yard TD scamper from Napoleon Maxwell. However, by then it was too late, the score made it 54-17 with the Knights continuing to dominate. Things really slowed down after that with both teams struggling to move the ball.
The slow down for the Knights was merely a result of trying true freshman Noah Verdal out under center for a quarter and a half. He would complete 10 of 12 passes for 79 yards and no interceptions in his first ever collegiate playing time. Th slowdown by FIU however, was a desperate attempt to find any way to move the ball down field as UCF defenders swarmed them. This, they were unable to do effectively.
UCF head coach Scott Frost praised Noah after the game along with McKenzie but was never too quick to give any one individual higher praise over the other. “Mckenzie had a really good day, but a lot of guys on the team had a good day. I give a lot of credit to the O-line for protecting for him. He wasn’t under much duress back there and when he was he had easy lanes to escape.” Said Frost.
Showing the unity of a team that has seen a roller coaster of a ride the last 5 years. With over 38,000 fans in the stands at Spectrum Stadium, it is easy to tell that the excitement of the football season is alive and well at UCF.
The Knights look to ride this wave into conference play next week when the invite the Memphis Tigers into town. After that, the road only gets tougher with back to back out of conference games against ACC foe Georgia Tech and a road battle against the Maryland Terrapins from the Big Ten.