UCF drop ‘War on I-4’ rivalry game to USF


Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

McKenzie Milton threw for 225 yards and had two interceptions in the Knights regular season ending loss to the USF Bulls.

TAMPA, Fla — Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack combined for 307 yards rushing as the USF Bulls defeated the UCF Knights 48-31 to claim the first-ever ‘War on I-4’ rivalry trophy game on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

UCF opened up the game with a touchdown on the first drive of the game, going 60 yards on six plays while taking 1:50 off the clock. But the Knights offense struggled the rest of the first quarter, adding only 10 more yards throughout the rest of the quarter.

McKenzie Milton started the game 3-4 on UCF’s opening drive but the freshman struggled afterwards, completing just seven of his next 16 pass attempts leading up to halftime. He finished the game 26-42 for 225 yards.

“Right now we have to execute at a really high rate,” said UCF head coach Scott Frost following the game. “We did it on the first drive and we struggled a little bit after that.”

Mack accounted for two of the Bulls touchdowns, including one 56-yard scoring run that saw the junior running back break six tackles on his way to the end zone. Mack finished the game with 155 yards on the ground, while Flowers added another 152 yards on the ground and two more rushing touchdowns of his own.

“They were able to execute well,” said UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin about Mack and Flowers running ability. “They saw the little mistakes we made and they were able to key on that and that’s really big.”

Flowers 62-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the third-year quarterback USF’s single season rushing record, breaking Mack’s record from 2015.

The Knights offense struggled throughout the game, losing the turnover battle 3-1 and giving up a touchdown on offense after Milton fumbled an exchange with the running back and USF’s Juwuan Brown returned it 22 yards to give the Bulls a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.

UCF cut USF’s lead to 24-14 when the Knights used a trick play that saw wide receiver Tristan Payton hit Tre’Quan Smith for a 72-yard touchdown pass with 5:36 remaining in the second quarter.

Taj McGowan brought UCF within a touchdown on a three-yard run by Taj McGowan that cut USF’s lead to 31-24 with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter. But that was as close as the Knights would get, as the Bulls scored ten unanswered points including a 24-yard touchdown run by Flowers.

Justin Holman helped bring UCF within ten when he hit Tre’Quan Smith for a 41-yard touchdown that cut USF’s lead to 41-31 late in regulation.

D’Ernest Johnson extended the Bulls lead to 48-31 with a one-yard rush during the final seconds of the game, which didn’t sit well with UCF’s staff.

“Everybody handles those situations differently,” said Frost about the late touchdown. “All I can say is our program will handle those in the classiest way we can.”

With the loss UCF drops to 6-6 for the regular season and gives USF a 6-2 lead in the ‘War on I-4’ rivalry.

The Knights will now wait to hear their fate for bowl season, with bowl announcements coming Sunday, Dec. 3. UCF has a good chance of staying in the Sunshine State for their bowl game, as four of the eight American Athletic Conference bowl tie-ins are in the state of Florida.

“What this team has accomplished is pretty special,” said Frost following the regular season finale. “I don’t want them to hang their head, I’m just looking forward to going to a bowl game and sending our seniors out on a big win.”