Friday, October 19, 2018
Colleges

No. 14 UCF routs UConn, faces one more test before USF showdown

ORLANDO — Less than four days after USF unveiled plans for a $40 million football-exclusive facility, UCF officials and donors were brandishing gold-painted shovels Saturday morning in a ceremonial groundbreaking for a football operations headquarters.

Yet for all the fanciful renderings and futuristic visions spawned by the I-4 rivals lately, only one arms race matters for the moment.

McKenzie Milton vs. Quinton Flowers, with every last marble in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division likely at stake.

While Flowers nudges closer to USF immortality, Milton climbs closer to the rarefied UCF air breathed only by his NFL predecessors. Saturday against Connecticut, the 5-foot-11 Knights sophomore notched his fifth 300-yard passing effort of the season in a 49-24 romp before an announced Spectrum Stadium crowd of 29,384.

The only other Knights with a quintet of 300-yard games in one season? Blake Bortles (2013) and Daunte Culpepper (1997).

"McKenzie’s been our catalyst," Knights coach Scott Frost said.

Now, the No. 22 Bulls (8-1, 5-1) and No. 14 Knights (9-0, 6-0) have only one hour of unfinished work each before their Black Friday showdown in Orlando. USF hosts Tulsa on senior night Thursday, while UCF travels to play rapidly improving Temple next weekend.

Tend to business in those games, and the Flowers-Milton clash moves to the national forefront. While not a matchup in the literal sense (neither must try to tackle the other), the proficiency with which each directs his balanced, brisk-tempo offense could determine the outcome.

Both can be deemed a dual-threat extraordinaire, albeit with contrasting skill sets. Flowers, an improved thrower but more effective runner (3,345 career rushing yards), possesses a burst and uncanny improvisational flair that has him on the cusp of overtaking Marlon Mack (3,609) for USF’s career rushing yardage lead.

Milton counters with a quick, faux-sidearm release that has proven consistently accurate. He entered Saturday’s game as the AAC’s most efficient passer (189.1) and finished 24-of-36 for 311 yards and two touchdowns. It was his fifth non-interception game of 2017.

"I give a lot of credit to Coach (Mario) Verduzco, putting in work in the offseason," Milton said. "He has a lot of good drills to work on mechanics and build arm strength. In my opinion he’s the best quarterback coach in the country."

Milton’s highlights Saturday: a 41-yard touchdown toss over the middle to Tre’Quan Smith — on second and 20 — in the second quarter, and a 39-yard toss to Smith down the right sideline in the fourth (UConn was whistled for interference on the play).

On the Knights’ opening drive of the game, he scrambled for 7 yards on third and 7, then found Gabriel Davis for a 30-yard completion the next play. The play after that, 165-pound freshman sparkplug Otis Anderson scored on a 3-yard run.

Milton’s take on it all: "I felt today we came out a little flat."

Okay, well, the Knights did fail to score in the third quarter (only the second quarter in which they’ve been held scoreless all year), but they responded with a trio of fourth-quarter touchdowns including Milton’s 4-yard run.

He finished with 52 yards on 10 carries.

"We have a lot of guys around him that can make football plays, but McKenzie’s the one making decisions and distributing," Frost said. "I thought he played a clean game today."

One more clean game, and it’s on to Flowers and Co. in what could be the most significant game in USF history.

Groundbreaking.

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

Comments
College football Week 8 viewing guide

College football Week 8 viewing guide

Lamest time window: Late. The marquee games are spread out well, but the primetime spot will have the fewest national implications.Noon: Can Jim Harbaugh start reversing his 1-5 record against rivals when No. 6 Michigan travels to No. 24 Michigan Sta...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida Gators midseason review: Is a NY6 bowl game in reach?

Florida Gators midseason review: Is a NY6 bowl game in reach?

After Florida's historic Week 2 loss to Kentucky, expectations plummeted for Dan Mullen's first season as the Gators' coach.A month later, No. 11 UF (6-1) is tied for first in the SEC East and a serious contender to make a run at a New Year's Six bow...
Published: 10/18/18
Georgia’s Kirby Smart not surprised by Florida Gators’ quick turnaround

Georgia’s Kirby Smart not surprised by Florida Gators’ quick turnaround

The Gators have completely transformed themselves from where they were a year ago against Georgia.Their 42-7 loss to the Bulldogs didn't even seem as close as the final score indicated. A day later, Jim McElwain was out as the head coach.No. 11 Flori...
Published: 10/17/18
Florida State football midseason review: Seminoles’ bowl streak in jeopardy

Florida State football midseason review: Seminoles’ bowl streak in jeopardy

Few teams in the country have been as disappointing as Florida State.The Seminoles started the year in the top 20, with a loaded running backs corps and a new coach (Willie Taggart) known for offensive fireworks.Midway through the Year 1 of the Tagga...
Published: 10/16/18
How Florida State responds after Hurricane Michael will decide its season

How Florida State responds after Hurricane Michael will decide its season

For the second year in a row, Florida State is having to deal with the football fallout from a devastating hurricane.The Seminoles' failure to respond properly from Hurricane Irma helped lead to their lost 2017 season. How they handle the aftermath o...
Published: 10/15/18
UConn linebacker hospitalized after suffering stroke

UConn linebacker hospitalized after suffering stroke

STORRS, Conn. — UConn linebacker Eli Thomas has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke. The school issued a statement Monday saying the 220-pound junior had the stroke Wednesday prior to a weightlifting session. The school says Thomas was immedia...
Published: 10/15/18
Matt Baker’s AP Top 25: Miami out, Florida Gators up and UCF in top 10

Matt Baker’s AP Top 25: Miami out, Florida Gators up and UCF in top 10

Four teams in the top eight of my AP Top 25 lost Saturday. So did four teams from 16-25. Just another college football weekend.Georgia's shocking 20-point loss at LSU sent the Bulldogs down from third to No. 9 on my ballot. UGA, for me, is in the 5-1...
Published: 10/14/18
Virginia uses defense to beat No. 16 Miami, 16-13

Virginia uses defense to beat No. 16 Miami, 16-13

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Jordan Ellis ran for a touchdown and Virginia kept No. 16 Miami’s high-powered offense from ever getting going in a 16-13 victory Saturday night. Ellis scored on a 7-yard run in the first half and Brian Delaney kicked three fie...
Published: 10/13/18

No. 10 UCF rallies for 31-30 comeback victory over Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With No. 10 UCF struggling and the nation’s longest winning streak in jeopardy, first-year coach Josh Heupel decided to take a gamble. Facing fourth and 1 in Memphis territory late in the third quarter and down 13 points, Heupel sent...
Published: 10/13/18
Livefor24 Foundation hosts first 5K, fun run

Livefor24 Foundation hosts first 5K, fun run

The event rises from the death of former UT volleyball player Melissa Vanderhall.
Published: 10/13/18