Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Colleges

No. 12 UCF sends coach Scott Frost out with an AAC title

ORLANDO — A significant concern of American Athletic Conference brass was whether the short-term futures of both coaches — especially UCF’s — would overshadow the action of Saturday’s league title game.

That worry disappeared along with both defenses on a warm, wild afternoon at Spectrum Stadium. In the second ebb-and-flow extravaganza staged in this venue in nine days, secondaries, school records and story lines were upended with equal fury.

By day’s end, No. 12 UCF had eked out a 62-55 overtime triumph against No. 16 Memphis in the highest-scoring conference championship game in Division I-A history.

"At the end of the day, they were able to make one more play than we did," Memphis coach Mike Norvell said. "What a game."

In other news, Knights coach Scott Frost is headed to Nebraska. Around dusk, the school confirmed Frost, a former Cornhuskers quarterback who led them to the 1997 national title, would return to his native state. Offensive coordinator Troy Walters will serve as UCF’s interim coach.

"I’d say the pull of the alma mater is what won the day," White said at an early-evening news conference.

A couple of hours earlier, Frost’s team completed one of the most staggering turnarounds in recent college football memory. UCF, coming off an 0-12 season when Frost was hired on Dec. 1, 2015, improved to 12-0 Saturday and appears headed to the Peach Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion.

"I’ve said it before, what these guys have done, it’s not just improbable it’s impossible, in two years to get where they are," he said. "It’s a special group."

Saturday, it also had to be a resilient one.

Before an announced crowd of 41,433, the Knights and Tigers (10-2) combined for 1,479 yards, four lead changes and 23 plays of at least 20 yards.

Memphis rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, tying the score at 48-all on sophomore speedster Tony Pollard’s 66-yard touchdown sweep, and quarterback Riley Ferguson’s 10-yard scoring throw to Anthony Miller.

Ferguson finished 30-of-42 for 471 yards and four touchdowns. Miller finished with 195 yards and three touchdowns on 14 catches.

"We had no panic," Ferguson said.

The teams then traded touchdowns in overtime before 165-pound freshman Otis Anderson (16 carries, 117 yards) gave UCF a 62-55 lead with a 1-yard touchdown run. On Memphis’ final possession, Ferguson, under duress from blitzing linebacker Shaquem Griffin, threw a pass over the middle that was picked by safety Tre Neal.

"We were just in man coverage, and we just tried to pressure ’em," Neal said. "My dude blocked, so I just zoned off and I saw the ball come to me, so I just jumped and grabbed it."

It salvaged a 562-total yard effort by Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton that was periodically prone to error.

All five of Milton’s touchdown throws covered at least 24 yards, but he threw a season-high three interceptions — one in the Memphis end zone and one at the Tigers 1-yard line — after tossing only six his first 11 games.

"This kid hasn’t made any bad decisions all year, so he was probably due for one," Frost said. "And their kids made plays."

Frost’s kids made one play more.

"These guys just keep answering the bell," he said. "It’s unbelievable the heart and spirit they have."

The heart, the spirit, the resilience, the reclamation of UCF football — all was celebrated afterward on the field, as the Knights were being showered by gold-and-black confetti. As Frost’s onfield interview was being played on the PA system, UCF fans unloaded a chant of "Stay, stay, stay."

"The hard thing about all this is, they should give you time after the season to make (career) decisions and they don’t," Frost told reporters in his postgame news conference. "These things happen at the wrong time. The one thing I wasn’t gonna do was sacrifice my commitment to this team."

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

 
Comments
FSU starter Josh Ball faces Title IX suspension over dating violence accusation

FSU starter Josh Ball faces Title IX suspension over dating violence accusation

Florida State starting offensive tackle Josh Ball faces a university suspension after a Title IX investigation found him responsible for dating violence.The suspension came to light in a Facebook post Monday afternoon by Sandra Sellers, an FSU studen...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

TAMPA — Florida State coach Willie Taggart fielded an interesting question near the end of his Q&A with fans during Sunday's booster stop at Armature Works.Are the Seminoles going to be going for it more on fourth down?"We will be goin...
Published: 05/21/18
Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

One of the first big nuggets from preseason college football magazines is out: Athlon's top 25.The site considers its rankings a prediction of where teams will be at the end of the year, not the beginning.Alabama and Clemson are 1-2 (no shock). Miami...
Published: 05/21/18
Taggart delivers a bolt to area

Taggart delivers a bolt to area

TAMPA — After spending four years as USF’s football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it’s no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," he sai...
Published: 05/20/18
Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

TAMPA – After spending four years as USF's football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it's no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," ...
Published: 05/20/18
ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

The ACC has released some kickoff and TV information for the first three weeks of the season:Week 1 (previously announced)Miami vs. LSU (in Arlington, Texas): Sunday, Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m., ABCVirginia Tech at Florida State: Monday, Sept. 3, 8 p.m., ESP...
Published: 05/18/18
Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Old, unofficial news is expected to become old, official news today with a formal announcement that Florida State and Boise State are kicking off the 2019 season in Jacksonville.  A lot has changed since the schools announced the series (FSU pla...
Published: 05/16/18
FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

What had been an open secret for months is now open and shut: Group of Five power Boise State will face FSU at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville in the teams' 2019 opener.A formal announcement is expected Wednesday, but the '19 schedule on Boise's offi...
Published: 05/15/18
RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

TAMPA — He’s the accidental pitcher who can’t be pigeonholed into a defined role. He’s a well-spoken economics major who morphs into fire-breathing intensity on the mound. And he’s one of the biggest reasons why the University of Tampa Spartans are p...
Published: 05/15/18
Police: Florida Gators recruit Justin Watkins kicked female’s car, broke her phone

Police: Florida Gators recruit Justin Watkins kicked female’s car, broke her phone

One of the Florida Gators' top incoming recruits was released from jail early Wednesday after police allege he kicked a female's car and broke her phone after an argument.Justin Watkins — a four-star athlete from Clermont — and ...
Published: 05/10/18