Wednesday, August 15, 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
Brian Burns looking to thrive in Florida State’s new-look defense

Brian Burns looking to thrive in Florida State’s new-look defense

BRADENTON — First-year coach Willie Taggart's plan to transform Florida State into a program built on lethal simplicity transcends the offense.The defense will try to live by that same two-word philosophy, which could help Brian Burns rebo...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Meet the Maryland coach and former Gator assistant at the center of a calamity

Meet the Maryland coach and former Gator assistant at the center of a calamity

Is Maryland’s DJ Durkin overly intense or just passionate? It depends on whom you ask.At the end of 2015, DJ Durkin addressed the Maryland football team for the first time. Some players viewed him with skepticism, the natural reaction of hypercompeti...
Updated: 11 hours ago
After Maryland, FSU’s Walt Bell excited to be in ‘family atmosphere’

After Maryland, FSU’s Walt Bell excited to be in ‘family atmosphere’

BRADENTON — New FSU offensive coordinator Walt Bell approached reporters Tuesday morning at IMG Academy seemingly resigned to the fact two subjects would arise: the Seminoles' quarterback derby and the ugly allegations surrounding Maryland...
Published: 08/14/18
Maryland apologizes for the heatstroke death of football player Jordan McNair

Maryland apologizes for the heatstroke death of football player Jordan McNair

University of Maryland president Wallace Loh and the school’s athletic director, Damon Evans, met privately with the family of Jordan McNair and apologized Tuesday for the school’s role in the young football player’s June death.Loh spoke at a news co...
Published: 08/14/18
Florida State football quick hits: Road trip bonding and quarterback battle

Florida State football quick hits: Road trip bonding and quarterback battle

BRADENTON — Although the recruiting advantage of Florida State's trip to IMG Academy is debatable, some of the other perks of the road trip are hard to deny.Like the camaraderie that comes with the bus ride down.QB Bailey Hockman said some...
Published: 08/13/18
Willie Taggart doesn’t see recruiting perks in FSU’s IMG Academy trip

Willie Taggart doesn’t see recruiting perks in FSU’s IMG Academy trip

BRADENTON — Florida State coach Willie Taggart presumably had many off-campus sites where he could have taken the Seminoles for this week's portion of preseason camp.So why IMG Academy?"Look around…" Taggart said.There's the sparking...
Published: 08/13/18
Florida Gators’ Van Jefferson can play this fall

Florida Gators’ Van Jefferson can play this fall

Florida receiver Van Jefferson can play immediately after receiving a waiver by the SEC, the Gators announced Monday morning.Jefferson needed the waiver after transferring from Ole Miss because of its NCAA mess. In two years with the Rebels, he had 9...
Published: 08/13/18
Florida State football starting practice at IMG Academy

Florida State football starting practice at IMG Academy

BRADENTON — Florida State hit the road to hold some of its preseason camp here at IMG Academy. A few highlights from morning interviews:I asked coach Willie Taggart why he wanted to come to IMG specifically. "Look around…" Taggart sa...
Published: 08/13/18
Maryland places DJ Durkin on administrative leave amid reports of football program’s toxic culture

Maryland places DJ Durkin on administrative leave amid reports of football program’s toxic culture

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland placed football Coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave Saturday in wake of news reports that players faced abuse and disparagement from staff members.Athletic Director Damon Evans sent a letter to unive...
Published: 08/11/18
Five thoughts from Florida Gators’ practice

Five thoughts from Florida Gators’ practice

GAINESVILLE — The Florida Gators continued preseason camp Saturday with two and a half hours of practice that were fully open to the media.A few observations:Running back Malik Davis (Jesuit High) looks fully recovered from the knee injury...
Published: 08/11/18