Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Monday, December 3, 2018

After Steamrolling USF, #8 UCF Wins Conference Championship against Memphis, Will Face LSU in Fiesta Bowl 1/1/19

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:42


After crushing rival USF and losing their powerful leader in quarterback McKenzie Milton to a horrendous injury, the UCF Knights (12-0; 8-0 AAC) came back from a 17-point deficit at the half to defeat the AAC West Division Champion Memphis Tigers (8-5; 5-3 AAC) under the gun of quarterback Darrial Mack. Mack shrugged off two early turnovers to rush for three second-half touchdowns and rally No. 7 UCF to a 56-41 victory over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday. With the red-shirt freshman filling in for injured quarterback McKenzie Milton, the Knights (12-0, No. 8 CFP) won their second-straight league title and extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 25 games. Mack also threw for 348 yards and two TDs without an interceptions to keep UCF, the only FBS team to finish undefeated a year ago, in the conversation about who’s deserving of consideration for berths in the College Football Playoff.

Greg McCrae rushed for 206 yards and one TD for the Knights, who beat the Tigers 62-55 in the 2017 AAC title game and rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to win 31-30 at Memphis during the regular season. This time, UCF trailed 38-21 at halftime before scoring touchdowns on five-straight possessions in the second half. Darrell Henderson scored on runs of 62, 12 and 82 yards and also throw a 4-yard TD pass to help Memphis (8-5) build its big halftime lead. But the nation’s second-leading rusher only gained 3 yards on six carries in the second half, finishing with 210 yards on 16 carries. Mack lost two first-quarter fumbles, setting up Henderson’s second touchdown and a field goal. The red-shirt freshman also fumbled into the end zone from inside the Memphis 1, however teammate Michael Colubiale recovered for a UCF touchdown in the second quarter.

Brady White was effective throwing the ball for Memphis until UCF finally stopped Henderson and Patrick Taylor, who scored on a 70-yard run and finished with 118 rushing, from running wild. The Tigers are winners of four of last five games and will face Wake Forrest in the Birmingham Bowl while the Knights will take a spot in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl, a coveted New Year’s Six Bowl. UCF enters the postseason unbeaten for the second straight year, and as the winners of their second straight American Athletic Conference Championship and were chosen by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to face LSU on New Year’s Day in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

UCF’s selection to a New Year’s Six bowl highlights a group of seven American Athletic Conference schools that will play in bowl games. UCF’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl marks the Knights’ third appearance in the top New Year’s bowls since 2013 and the American Athletic Conference’s fourth New Year’s bowl bid since the formation of the conference. Teams from The American are 3-0 in previous New Year’s Bowls. UCF was a 52-42 winner against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl to cap the 2013 season, while Houston defeated Florida State 38-24 in the 2015 Peach Bowl before UCF took a 34-27 win against Auburn in last year’s Peach Bowl.

UCF was ranked No. 8 in the final College Football Playoff rankings of the season, the highest final ranking for an American Athletic Conference team in the five-year history of the CFP. The Knights are ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches’ polls and will face an LSU team that is 9-3 and ranked No. 11 across the board. It will be the first meeting between the schools. Watch highlights of UCF’s victory in the AAC Conference Championship Game, courtesy of the American Athletic Association Digital Network, below:

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