UCF Defense Seals Win On The Road Against UConn

AAC East Leaderboard Tightens Up

 

UCF found themselves in a familiar spot Saturday against the UConn Huskies— holding a lead in the final minutes with the opposition driving. This time, the Knights defense won the battle.

UCF (4-3, 2-1) erased an early 13-0 deficit behind a stellar performance by quarterback McKenzie Milton and hung on to win 24-16 in East Hartford, Conn.

“It’s definitely a great feeling, especially after a loss like last week,” Milton said via UCF athletics. “We were hungry to get back out here. It’s a great road win.”

Bryce Brimhall / Bryce Brimhall Media Services
Bryce Brimhall / Bryce Brimhall Media Services

Milton threw for a season-high 317 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 29 of 45 passes including scoring plays to Dedrick Snelson (22 yds), Jordan Akins (19 yds), and Adrian Killins (39 yds).

As UCF was held scoreless in the second half last week against Temple, it was the UConn (3-5, 1-4) offense that was held in check by Eric Chinander’s ‘UCFierce’ defensive unit. The Knights made fourth-down stops on two late UConn drives, including stopping quarterback Bryant Shirreffs inches shy on fourth down in the red-zone to seal the win in the final minutes.

“This team has character,” UCF head coach Scott Frost said via UCF athletics. “We talked about that all week. We’ve been so close a couple times. As we talked about, sooner or later, things are going to go our way and we’re going to find a way to get it done in the end. Our kids battled through a lot.”

The UConn offense came into the game one of the worst in the American Conference, but had success early against UCF, primarily in the running game. The Huskies ran for 171 yards led by Arkeel Newsome (101 yds). Noel Thomas also had his fifth straight 100-yard receiving game (9 catches for 165 yds).

UConn opened the game with two Bobby Puyol field goals (22,33 yds) and a 3-yd Newsome score to take that 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. After that it was all Milton and the Knights.

The freshman signal caller orchestrated a 93-yard scoring drive that ended in the Snelson score and the Knights were just getting started. UConn would add a Puyol 35-yard kick to take a 16-7 lead with under two minutes to go in the opening half, which ultimately became their final points of the game.

Milton again would put together a long scoring drive, this time 75-yards capped off by Akins’ score to send the Knights into the locker room up 16-14. UCF would receive the ball to open the second half and for the third consecutive drive, march 70-plus yards and score.

After the Killins touchdown, the momentum was all UCF and this time the Knights held on for victory.

The win is another stepping stone for Frost’s unit, as week to week the Knights have been making strides offensively and defensively in this new uptempo system. With a USF loss this week, the AAC East looks like it will be an intriguing race down the stretch.

The Knights head to Houston next weekend to take on the defending American Athletic Conference Champions. Kickoff is slated for noon ET and will be broadcast live on ESPNews.

FIRST QUARTER UCF CONN
FG
9:01
Bobby Puyol 22 Yd Field Goal
12 plays, 68 yards, 5:59
0 3
FG
3:29
Bobby Puyol 33 Yd Field Goal
7 plays, 25 yards, 3:03
0 6
SECOND QUARTER UCF CONN
TD
9:41
Arkeel Newsome 3 Yd Run (Bobby Puyol Kick)
7 plays, 60 yards, 2:45
0 13
TD
6:50
Dredrick Snelson 22 Yd pass from McKenzie Milton (Matthew Wright Kick)
8 plays, 93 yards, 2:51
7 13
FG
1:25
Bobby Puyol 35 Yd Field Goal
13 plays, 45 yards, 5:25
7 16
TD
0:01
Jordan Akins 19 Yd pass from McKenzie Milton (Matthew Wright Kick)
9 plays, 75 yards, 1:24
14 16
 
THIRD QUARTER UCF CONN
TD
12:27
Adrian Killins 39 Yd pass from McKenzie Milton (Matthew Wright Kick)
7 plays, 75 yards, 2:33
21 16
 
FOURTH QUARTER UCF CONN
FG
14:15
Matthew Wright 50 Yd Field Goal
11 plays, 48 yards, 3:59
24 16
Frank Shala currently covers UCF Athletics— primarily football— for Sports Talk Florida. He has been on the Orlando sports scene for the past four years and has covered various UCF, Orlando Magic, Orlando City/Pride and PGA TOUR events. In addition, he has a background in combat sports, competing in amateur boxing growing up, which has led to boxing and MMA coverage as well. You can follow Frank at @frankpshala on Twitter.