McKenzie Milton threw for 296 yards and ran for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as No. 10 Central Florida weathered its first significant test of the season before escaping with a 31-30 victory over Memphis on Saturday.
Milton’s 7-yard touchdown with 12:14 left completed a comeback for the Knights (6-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference), who trailed 30-14 with 2:04 left in the first half. The victory was UCF’s 19th straight – the nation’s longest winning streak — but it was by far the toughest game of the season for the Knights, who defeated their first five opponents by double-digits.
Even in the closing seconds, Memphis (4-3, 1-3) seemed on the way to at least have a chance for a game-winning field goal as the Tigers moved to the UCF 31. Memphis botched clock management in the final 30 seconds, getting hit with a motion penalty that required a clock runoff, and then Brady White completed a 9-yard pass to Tony Pollard and the seconds slipped away.
Darrell Henderson, who leads the nation in rushing, had 199 yards and a touchdown on the ground on a career-best 31 carries for Memphis.
It was the first meeting since last year’s American Athletic Conference championship game, which UCF won 62-55 in double overtime.
Saturday’s momentum swing for the Knights, who struggled to contain Memphis in the early stages, came in the third quarter. With UCF facing fourth-and-1 at their 29, the Tigers bunched at the line of scrimmage and quickly ran a play. Taj McGowan burst through the initial defense and went 71 yards for a touchdown to cut the Memphis lead to 30-24.
That set the stage for Milton’s winning score, capping a 74-yard drive.
UCF: Milton, a Heisman Trophy candidate, led the Knights in a game where they struggled at time defensively. The go-ahead touchdown came as he was hit hurtling toward the goal line, barely making it to the end zone.
Memphis: The Tigers looked like the team that many thought would return to the AAC championship game most of the way, but now have three conferences loss and are in rough shape in the West Division. Henderson, though, showed why he should be getting at least a little Heisman hype.
The Knights moved into the Top 10 after last week’s win over SMU, and could be moving up with some other highly ranked teams losing.
UCF: Travels to East Carolina next Saturday
MEMPHIS: Plays a nonconference game at Missouri next Saturday.
Source: The Associated Press