Written by Micahel Hull
Orlando, FL – The UCF Knights took care of business Saturday night in front of their home crowd, beating the SMU Mustangs 48-20. UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns while running back Adrian Killins went for 113 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. For SMU, James Proche provided the little offense, hauling in 12 catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, plus providing a spark on special teams with 115 kick return yards.
The Mustangs won the toss and elected to receive to start out the game. They got things going early, with a trick play bringing them all the way down to the ten-yard line. They had to settle for a 31-yard field goal to cap a 12 play, 62-yard drive.
UCF struck back quickly with a 75-yard drive, converting three third downs and capping it off with a 15-yard touchdown run by running back Adrian Killins. The Mustangs then turned the ball over on the ensuing kickoff, putting the Knights offense in the red zone. Quarterback McKenzie Milton took advantage, throwing a strike to wide receiver Dredrick Snelson for the touchdown to put UCF up 14-3 midway through the first. The defense held strong on the following SMU drive, forcing a three-and-out. Milton and the offense went 70 yards in just under two minutes on the following drive, with Otis Anderson capping it off with a four-yard touchdown run. SMU got the ball back in desperate need of a score, but a third-down sack by UCF’s Trysten Hill led to another three and out. At the end of the first quarter, the Knights had a commanding 21-3 lead.
After ineffective play from quarterback William Brown, SMU replaced the freshman with junior Ben Hicks. The Mustangs drove the ball downfield with Hicks at the helm, but missed a fourth down conversion in field goal range, giving the ball back to UCF.
The game finally broke SMU’s way, however, as Milton’s pass was intercepted by safety Patrick Nelson. Nelson’s first interception of the season set up the Mustangs with the ball deep in the red zone, and they were able to capitalize with a touchdown pass from Hicks to wideout James Proche. The extra point made the game 21-10 with eight and a half minutes to go in the first half.
The Knights suffered a scare on the next drive, as Milton was forced to leave the game due to injury. Redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr. took over for the remainder of the drive, leading the offense to a field goal to extend the lead to 24-10 with a little more than three minutes left in the half. Milton returned to action on the following drive, leading the offense down the field to a field goal to end the half. As the teams went into the tunnel, the score stood at 27-10.
Milton came out firing to start the second half, leading the offense downfield quickly. The Knights extended their lead to 34-10 on a fourth -own dive from defensive tackle Trysten Hill. The 88-yard drive took just 3:44 off the clock. SMU looked to shift the momentum with a huge kickoff return by James Proche. At the end of the run, a late hit call on UCF put the Mustangs in position, starting the drive at the Knights’ 46-yard line. They were only able to muster up a field goal, cutting the UCF lead down to 21. After forcing a rare punt, SMU took over deep in their own territory. Following a botched fake punt attempt by the Mustangs, UCF took over at midfield. Adrian Killins crossed over 100 rushing yards during the drive, becoming the first UCF rusher to do that since McKenzie Milton in last season’s Peach Bowl. UCF held a firm 34-13 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Knights didn’t waste any time in the fourth quarter, as Milton hit receiver Tre Nixon for a 30-yard touchdown pass on the very first play to make the score 41-13. SMU, desperate for points, went for it on fourth down in field goal range but ended up missing. UCF got the ball back and, yet again, went down the field, going 81 yards in under two minutes. The drive resulted in an Otis Anderson 30-yard touchdown run, his second of the game. SMU’s hopes continue to dwindle, as the score was now 48-13, Knights. The Mustangs added a late James Proche score, but in the end, UCF walked away with the 48-20 victory.
After the game, head coach John Heupel was thrilled with how his defense performed.
“I really like what our defense has done the last couple of weeks, a dominating performance tonight,” Heupel said. “[They] did a good job on third downs. They played great football all night long.”
As far as the offense is concerned, Milton feels as if they left some opportunities out on the field.
“I think we left some points out there I don’t think we played our best but that’s part of the process,” Milton said. “We are about halfway through the season, we just got to keep trying to get better each week.”
UCF looks to continue their hot start on the road Memphis next week.
“You’ve got to have a road warrior mentality, that’s part of college football, but we will be ready to roll,” Milton said.