PREVIEW: UCF Knights Look To Avenge Last Year’s Maryland Loss Saturday
By Ian MacDougall, UCF Knights // September 22, 2017
UCF at Maryland, Kickoff Set for 3 p.m. ET on FS1
ABOVE VIDEO: UCF Coordinators Troy Walters and Erik Chinander break down this weekend’s game at Maryland.
ORLANDO, FLORIDA (UCF Knights) – McKenzie Milton will start the 12th game of his career on Saturday when the UCF football team travels to play Maryland, the same team that Milton faced in his first career start on Sept. 17, 2016.
A lot has happened in the time since he took over the reins of the offense, but Milton remembers the first time he stepped on the field as a starter for the Knights well.
“I was really excited to get to play,” Milton recalled.
“There was a lot to learn in order to prepare, but I wasn’t really nervous before the game. I just wanted to get out there and compete. Once I completed my first pass, the pressure kind of went away.”
Undaunted by facing a Big Ten opponent at home for the first time in his career, Milton put together a solid performance, going 21-for-36 for 260 yards and three touchdowns – two passing and one rushing.
Down by seven in overtime, Milton found Tre’Quan Smith in the end zone with a 31-yard toss on third-and-16, but unfortunately, for the Knights, the Terrapins forced a fumble on the Knights’ next possession, and scored to send UCF to a 30-24 defeat.
“Watching the film from last year, I felt we played pretty well, well enough to win,” head coach Scott Frost said.
“We made too many mistakes and that’s what cost us the game. We had fumbles on exchanges and tipped ball interceptions. McKenzie threw one back over his head for a 15-yard loss. It was his first start. He’s a better player than what he was last year when these two teams met.”
After missing the ECU game due to injury, Milton progressed over the final eight contests of the year, finishing his rookie season with 1,983 yards passing and 10 touchdowns through the air, in addition to three scores on the ground. His 194 completions set the program record for a freshman.
Milton has continued to grow following an offseason and preseason as the UCF starter. In the season opener against FIU, the native of Kapolei, Hawaii, had a career day with 360 yards and four touchdowns, the 24th-most passing yards in a game in UCF history.
“I know what to expect now,” Milton said of his second year under center. “I have more of a routine. I don’t have ‘Oh, what’s this or what’s that’ moments anymore. I tend to know what to expect going into practice and film sessions. I feel a lot more at ease in my second year.”
Even though it has been a little over a year since he took over the UCF quarterback, Milton has continued to look back at his first start to see how far he has come.
“It’s actually kind of funny,” Milton added. “Coach Mario (Verduzco) put together a whole highlight reel of bad plays from last season’s game against Maryland. We watched and laughed at a little bit of it. It’s a new year. We’re a better team and they’re a better team, so it’ll be a new challenge.”
While Maryland is 2-0, including a 51-41 win at then No. 23 Texas, the Terrapins are in a similar situation to UCF from a year ago. True freshman Kasim Hill will make his first career start against a Football Bowl Subdivision team on Saturday.
Hill replaced an injured Tyrell Pigrome late in the third quarter against the Longhorns and rushed for a touchdown. In last weekend’s 63-17 win over Towson, Hill went 13-of-16 for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m sure he’s excited to play, just like I was,” Milton said. “He’s probably not going to overthink anything about the game. He’s a pretty big kid with a good arm, so I think he’ll be ready to play this weekend.”
Milton and the Knights also have the benefit of having an extra week to prepare for Maryland. Following two schedule changes due to Hurricane Irma, UCF will step on the field 23 days after defeating FIU. One year later, with an experienced quarterback and tighter-knit team, the Black and Gold is ready for a clash on Saturday.
“I think our mindset is different this season,” Milton continued. “Going into this game last year, it was more ‘oh, maybe we can beat this team’. Now, it’s ‘let’s go beat this team’. I think we’re ready for this challenge and excited to get back on the field.”
RISE AND CONQUER
The second season of UCF Football under head coach Scott Frost is now underway. Fans can explore all of the new ticket options at Spectrum Stadium by visiting WeRiseandConquer.com or calling (407) 823-1000.
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