TODAY AT 12 NOON: UCF Knights, Memphis Tigers Will Clash With Championship Title At Stake
By Space Coast Daily // December 2, 2017
AAC TITLE Game: Memphis @ UCF 12 p.m. on ABC
ORLDANDO, FLORIDA – After an exhilarating War On I-4 win over USF last Friday, the UCF football team returns to the gridiron for one of the most important games in program history. On Saturday, the Knights (11-0, 8-0) square off with Memphis in the American Athletic Conference Championship game.
Saturday’s stakes extend far beyond a league title. The winner will carry The American standard and punch its ticket to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
In a football rarity, UCF and Memphis will face each other for the second time this season. The Knights dominated the Tigers to the tune of a 40-13 win at Spectrum Stadium on Sept. 30.
In UCF’s first game back at home in a month due to Hurricane Irma, the Knights scored 34 unanswered points behind smothering defense and 350 yards on the ground. Adrian Killins Jr. set the program record for longest play from scrimmage with a 96-yard house call in the second quarter. The UCF defense forced four turnovers and held the Tigers to 4-of-12 on third down.
Even though the Knights put together a complete performance during the first contest, UCF head coach Scott Frost believes that both teams are significantly different heading into the matchup.
“They’ve evolved, and we’ve evolved,” Frost said. “They had a lot of injuries on defense early on in the year. They got some young guys that have improved as the year has gone along. On offense, they’ve been playing lights out. I think they’re an improved team since we saw them last time.”
Both clubs have come a long way since the Week 4 matchup.
The Knights have outscored opponents by a margin of 392 to 207. The Black and Gold averaged 338.4 yards passing and 179 yards on the ground over the last eight games. Defensively, UCF forced nine fumbles, recovering six, and recorded 11 interceptions during that same span.
For their efforts, the Knights landed 16 players on the All-Conference teams, a new record for The American. Quarterback McKenzie Milton was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, and Frost garnered Coach of the Year honors.
“You look at their offense, they started off extremely fast this year, and they’ve continued to get better as the year has gone on because I mean, you look at their quarterback, he’s got a second full season under his belt now,” Memphis head coach Mike Norvell said earlier this week at his press conference.
“He’s playing at such a high level, the weapons they have at receiver, the run game, in every aspect of their football team, they’ve improved, and it’s a complete team that we’re playing.”
Norvell’s team has only improved after its lone defeat earlier this season. Over its final seven games, Memphis defeated opponents by an average of 25.9 points per game. American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Year Tony Pollard returned a pair of kickoffs back to the end zone.
Quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for 2,396 yards and 23 touchdowns following the loss to UCF. The Tigers’ defense picked off eight passes and recovered nine fumbles over the final seven games.
“It’s the same team, same guys and same coaches,” Frost added. “I think they’re playing a little better. They’ve changed up some of the things they’re doing. We know their personnel, and they know ours. We’re going to go into this game with the best game plan we can come up with, and we’ll see if it’s good enough.”
Once the whistle blows on Saturday, nothing else matters for 60 minutes. The top two teams in The American will battle with a bid to the game’s highest stage on the line. A win on Saturday would have a different meaning for both teams. The championship is on the line.
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY NEWS