UNIVERSITY PARK — Several missed late-game opportunities had SMU (6-3, 3-2) falter in their upset bid against No. 15 UCF as UCF (8-0, 5-0) left Gerald J. Ford Stadium unblemished on the season with a 31-24 win.
With the support and cheers of a homecoming crowd galvanizing SMU into a late rally effort with 5:15 left down 31-24, quarterback Ben Hicks looked to his receiver Trey Quinn to keep the drive alive that could possibly tie the game up. Quinn dropped what would have been a first down reception and gave UCF a jolt of momentum that gave the Knights a chance to close out the game.
The Mustang defense however gave their offense another opportunity as they saddled up and attacked the UCF offense with a vengeance that forced UCF to punt following a sack by Delontae Scott for a loss of 12 yards on 3rd & 7 to give SMU the ball back once again with 2:55 left in the game.
With one more shot to potentially send this game into overtime and keep the upset bid alive, SMU began the 80-yard trek towards a remarkable end in regulation.
SMU once again however found themselves in a fourth and situation and their chances fading away. Ben Hicks moved around the pocket and tried to hit Courtland Sutton as he peeled back toward the sideline near the first down marker. The pass fell incomplete that allowed UCF to hold on.
“We can’t let SMU beat SMU and we had that tonight,” said SMU head coach Chad Morris, “We had some opportunities tonight and it was very uncharacteristic of us. We fumble the ball going into score…some critical drops…that happens. I know those guys are sick and upset but you know what, that’s football. They’ll be better and they’ll respond. We love them and I’m so proud of them but against a great team like that, things happen.”
“There’s a locker room full of hurt kids right now and coaches but I’m extremely proud of their want to,” continued Morris. “I’m extremely proud of their desire and their fight. That’s a good football team and hats off to Coach Frost and his Central Florida team. They’ve done a tremendous job and they’re very deserving of the rank they’ve got…they’ve got a good football team.”
The Mustangs first score came off the heels of a turnover on downs. SMU’s just as potent offense wasted no time in scoring as Ben Hicks hit wide receiver James Proche on a play action pass that had Proche score from 86-yards out and take only 16 seconds for SMU to go up 7-0.
Quarterback McKenzie Milton, who finished with a career-best 412 passing yards and one passing touchdown garnered the first points of the night for UCF on a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:16 left in the first quarter to tie the game at 7.
UCF would get the lead back on Milton’s longest completion of the night when he found wide receiver Gabriel Davis on an 80-yard touchdown pass after off a Ke’Mon Freeman near the goal line.
UCF rushed the ball 36 times for 203 yards with Adrian Killins accounting for 147 of them and two touchdowns including a 34-yard and 64-yard touchdown run.
The first half saw fast-paced scoring drives and plenty of big plays on both sides of the ball and had the Knights up 21-14 at halftime.
Jordan Wyatt finished with four tackles, a forced fumble and a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter to tie the game at 14 with 7:14 prior to intermission. Defensively, SMU had three takeaways and garnered two sacks to keep them in the lead for 1st in team sacks in the American Athletic Conference.
The defense kept UCF to their smallest margin of victory on the season but too many big plays that put SMU in a bind later in the game proved to be too costly for them to make up.
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