Knights lose homecoming game in heartbreaking fashion

Courtesy UCF Athletic Communications

If only the first half of football counted in UCF’s season this year, they would probably be 5-1. However, football has 60 minutes and as the Knights learned Saturday night, every minute counts as the Temple Owls utilized a strong second half and brick wall-like defense to mount a last minute comeback, capping a 26-25 win over UCF.

The Knights (3-3,1-1) dominated play in the first half, keeping the Owls at 145 yards on the offense, putting up 25 points thanks to the strong play true freshman McKenzie Milton showed a homecoming crowd Saturday night. In addition to a strong passing game, Milton showed that freshman running back Adrian Killins isn’t the only Knight who has a need for speed; the Hawaii native rushed through the middle of the field, bursting through the secondary for a 63-yard touchdown and taking over as the second longest rush by a quarterback since Daunte Culpepper ran for a 75-yard touchdown back on Oct. 4, 1997.

However, the Knights — who were poised to hold a comfortable second place in the AAC in the Eastern division behind only that of I-4 rival, USF, who beat UCONN tonight, UCF’s next opponent — witnessed a total collapse of offensive presence combined with a lack of a ground-and-pound defense the Temple Owls quickly identified and used to their advantage.

But the final blow to a worn-down Knights team didn’t come until the final seconds of the game. After a quick three-and-out by the UCF offense with 1:41 left of the game, the Knights were forced to punt the ball away with :41 seconds left, giving Temple the ball on their 30-yard line.

With :32 seconds left, Temple quarterback Phillip Walker started their game-winning drive, completing a pass on the first play of the drive for 20 yards, bringing the ball to the 50- yard line. Immediately after, the Owls found a receiver near the sideline for a quick 16-yard pass where the wide-out was then able to get out-of-bounds with :17 seconds left. On UCF’s 34-yard line, the Owls completed another pass, this one for 26-yards, bringing the ball to UCF’s eight-yard line. Then came the disaster.

With head coach Scott Frost and company expected a spike to stop the clock with :10 seconds left in the game and a timeout available, they put a worn-out defense on the field while planning for what they imagined to be the scoring attempt. However, Frost and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander were wrong and Temple’s Walker lobbed a ball to their tight-end, Keith Kirkwood in the back of the endzone for an eight-yard touchdown, scoring and winning the game.

“I don’t have much to say. I’m sick to my stomach. We let one get away, truly two in our building we’ve let get away and those things can’t happen,” Frost said. “We all gotta do a better job finishing. It’s a learning process for all of us, but those are lessons you don’t want to have to learn and I feel terrible for the kids.”