After news broke late Friday night that true freshman quaterback and Hawaiian native, McKenzie Milton would be starting for UCF instead of injured senior Justin Holman (leg), anticipations were high for the kid that head coach Scott Frost consistently described as having “the it factor”.
From opening kickoff, the crowd made up of 43,197 people comprised of students and families on UCF family weekend created an electric atmosphere contagious to the players on the field. UCF’s defense came alive immediately in what would turn out to be a double overtime, 30-24 loss for the Knights (1-2) at the hands of Maryland (3-0).
Milton had a good start on his debut night, passing for 260 yards on 21 of 36 attempts. Aside from six fumbles and an interception, Frost and company were satisfied with what they saw despite some late game jitters.
“Well, you know he’s a freshman so, of course, everybody on the offense has to help him and cheer him on and make him feel comfortable,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith said. “He was frustrated because he didn’t know what to do sometimes but we came to him and talked, saying ‘calm down its just a game.’ ”
Smith also had a productive night on offense, catching eight passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, in the ground game, three Knights rushed for over 50 yards.
“I’m brokenhearted for our kids,” Frost said. “They worked their tails off. I told them before the game they were poised and ready to knock off a team very few people thought they could beat. We had our chances in this one. We had a lot of chances to finish it, to score early and make it a different game. I’m hurting for our kids that we didn’t get it done.”
The Knights will be on the road next week as they head south to take on FIU.