After a winless 2015 campaign, UCF (6-4, 4-2) is bowl eligible after routing Cincinnati (4-6, 1-5) 24-3 thanks to a couple of strong offensive drives and another lights-out performance by the defense and special teams.
Led offensively by quarterback McKenzie Milton, the freshman threw for 150 passing yards, completing 22 of 34 pass attempts and a touchdown pass, a one-yard pass to freshman Dredrick Snelson to put the Knights up 10-0 with 3:20 left of the first quarter.
“It’s a big accomplishment coming from where we were last year,” Milton said. “Our offense was moving.”
In the ground-and-pound game, freshman Jawon Hamilton paved the way, rushing a career-high 81 yards on 17 rushes, his longest coming off a 25-yard touchdown run with 11:45 remaining in the game.
“It was a pretty good feeling,” Hamilton said of his touchdown. “I told Mckenzie before that play, ‘You know I’ve got you.’ He gave it to me and I just did it. Offensive line did a great job blocking. I read and I saw it. I just made a great play.”
The Knights put up 305 total offensive yards while the Bearcats put up only one scoring play, a 38-yard field goal with 7:36 left of the half.
Despite the victory in the yardage column for the Bearcats, it was the Knights who won the day on the defensive and special teams side of the ball.
The defense held the Bearcats to only 107 rushing yards and intercepted sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore two times, one for a pick six that was called back due to an unsportsmanlike penalty called before redshirt junior Seyvon Lowry entered the endzone. Moore was sacked five times.
“Cincinnati has some great playmakers on their team,” redshirt senior Errol Clarke said. “We actually thought they would be able to at least move the ball a little bit. But you know when you smell blood in the water, a shark’s going to go get it.”
Meanwhile on special teams, UCF was able to put an end to Cincinnati’s chance of a comeback when senior linebacker Justin McDonald picked up a blocked punt tipped by redshirt sophomore defensive back Tre Neal, returning it 23-yards for a touchdown, putting the Knights up 17-3 with 6:53 left of the third quarter.
With this win, UCF will head into a home game against Tulsa (7-3, 4-2) looking to win their third-straight and adding on to their turn-around season led at the helm by head coach Scott Frost.
“I’m happy for our players,” Frost said. “I told them you don’t get much in life that you don’t earn and they’ve earned the success they have. With all the work that they’ve put in and with believing in what we were asking them to do and taking care of one another. Big accomplishment for them and I look forward to coaching them, maybe three more times now.”