Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Colleges

UCF rallies, tops USF for first time

ORLANDO — At the urging of their school, UCF fans converged Friday at Bright House Networks Stadium mostly in black. Surely, their 17th-ranked team would follow suit.

Nah, the Knights came out in gold jerseys. It wouldn't be their first blunder.

Behind another dominant defensive effort, and a resurgent one from freshman quarterback Mike White, USF pounced on the hosts' turnover propensity to almost bring fresh meaning to Black Friday in Orlando.

But Blake Bortles' 52-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman with 4:50 to go lifted the Knights to a 23-20 win against USF before an announced Bright House Networks Stadium audience of 45,952.

"It hurts really bad," said Bulls senior tailback Marcus Shaw, who had 63 of his 67 yards after halftime. "I just finished crying. I'll probably cry some more when I get home."

UCF (10-1, 7-0 American Athletic Conference) clinched a share of the league title, preserved its BCS bowl aspirations and defeated the Bulls (2-9, 2-5) for the first time in five meetings — all the hard way. Its five turnovers were the most it has committed this season.

Speaking of season highs, the Bulls were five minutes from being on one.

"We can't leave a good team like UCF on the field to be able to take the lead," said junior Andre Davis (seven catches, 87 yards), who set a USF single-season receiving yardage mark at 721. "We've got to go out there and put our foot on that throat and win the game, simple as that."

In his best performance since his Oct. 31 debut at Houston, White (15-for-34, 211 yards) directed a nine-play, 77-yard touchdown drive in the second half, giving USF a 20-16 lead.

The highlight: a 31-yard pass to Sean Price on third and 6, giving USF first and goal at the 2. The Bulls punched it in two plays later on Shaw's 1-yard run on the fourth quarter's second play.

Then Bulls freshman defensive back Nate Godwin intercepted Bortles at the Knights 30 with 6:42 to go. But by the time Marvin Kloss' 51-yard field goal sailed slightly wide right, only 48 seconds had elapsed.

White threw three incompletions and USF was penalized twice — holding and an illegal block — on one play. On UCF's ensuing drive, Bortles responded with a textbook pump fake, forcing freshman cornerback Lamar Robbins to bite, which allowed Perriman to get behind him.

White then moved USF 47 yards in seven plays before defensive back Jordan Ozerities stepped in front of his sideline pass and returned it to the Bulls 37 to essentially end the game.

It was a sigh of relief for the Knights.

On the game's sixth play, freshman defensive back Johnny Ward stripped the ball from Knights tailback Storm Johnson, and cornerback Kenneth Durden recovered at the UCF 39. USF moved 10 yards in five plays before Kloss, a Groza Award finalist as the nation's top kicker, nailed a 46-yard field goal.

It was the first time the Bulls had scored first since Oct. 5 (Cincinnati) and the first time they had led since the Oct. 12 win over Connecticut.

Johnson also fumbled on UCF's second drive when center Joey Grant inadvertently got a hand in the tailback's numbers and popped it loose. Johnson (10 carries, 62 yards) didn't touch the ball again in the first half.

USF couldn't capitalize on the miscue, committing three penalties in a four-play span. For the fourth consecutive game, the Bulls had double-digit penalties (11 for 89 yards).

But UCF's flubs kept them hanging around.

Midway through the third, defensive end Ryne Giddins stripped Bortles and defensive lineman Julius Forte recovered. Four plays later, receiver Chris Dunkley took a handoff on a reverse and darted around the right for a 13-yard score, tying it at 13.

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