The magic finally ran out in the regular season for the UCF Knights, as the Pitt Panthers went into their “bag of tricks,” scoring on a receiver pass to the quarterback to pull the upset of the number 15 ranked Knights, 35 – 34, Saturday evening.
In a wild back and forth game that saw Pitt race out to a 21 -0 lead in the second quarter, only to have UCF storm back with 31 unanswered points to lead by 10, the Panthers saved their best for their final drive.
That’s when they went 79 yards in just over three minutes and capped things off with a dramatic 4th and goal touchdown play that Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi admitted after the game is called “Pitt Special.”
That’s similar to “Philly Special,” the Super Bowl touchdown play run by the Philadelphia Eagles two years ago to help them defeat the New England Patriots
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) September 21, 2019
On the Pitt play, wide receiver Andrew Matthews took a reverse hand off and threw in the right part of the end zone three yards to quarterback Kenny Pickett (above) for the tying score. Then, the extra point was good and Pitt led by one.
UCF had one final chance to get into field-goal range with :56 remaining, but freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who had led the comeback and got UCF the 10-point lead, could not muster any offense. That’s largely because the Pitt pass rush swarmed him for two key sacks that ran down most of the clock. UCF had one final play where they tried multiple laterals in their own end but Pitt tackled them to end the game with zeros on the clock.
The loss is devastating to UCF’s hopes to once again potentially crash the College Football Playoff or as a good consolation end up in a “New Year’s Six” bowl game. That’s where the Knights have been the last two years in the Peach and the Fiesta bowls.
The defeat is the first one in the regular season in 26 games for UCF, dating back to their final regular-season game in November of 2016, when USF beat them at Raymond James Stadium.
Pittsburgh had jumped out quickly to a 14-0 with two long scoring drives. They then blocked a UCF Punt and LB Wendell Davis ran it in from 18 yards out for the 21 – 0 lead, stunning the Black and Gold.
But, Gabriel led the charge back throwing for 388 yards and 2 TD passes and UCF seemed to be in command at 31 – 21.
Then, leading 31-28 with under five minutes remaining, the Knights were unable to run the clock completely out or get a clinching touchdown and settled for a 28 yard Dylan Barnes field goal and the 34 – 28 lead.
That set the stage for the Panthers to drive 12 plays in the final minutes to inside the UCF five yard line and eventually, get the win with the trick play.
USF and UCF got American Conference 2020 schedules Tuesday
On Tuesday afternoon the American Athletic Conference made official is 2020 football dates for opponents for its conference members. And, that means UCF and USF got to look for the first time at their full conference slates and when they are playing whom.
First for the Knights, they learned that they will open year three of coach Josh Heupel’s conference play on Thursday night September 24th at East Carolina. It is one of three stand-alone weeknight(day) games UCF has on their schedule.
The next one will be Friday night October 16th, as UCF travels to play the Memphis Tigers. That’s a team that the Knights defeated for two Conference Championship Game victories in 2017 and 18.
— American Football (@American_FB) February 18, 2020
UCF will also play a traditional “War on I-4” game with the rival Bulls on the Friday after Thanksgiving November 27th. This will be the fourth straight year of playing on “Black Friday.”
As for the Knights other part of the league schedule, they will have their AAC home opener with Tulsa on Saturday October 3rd and then, finish the slate with two huge home matchups with Temple Saturday November 14th followed by Cincinnati at Spectrum Stadium the following week.
For the Bulls, who welcome first year coach Jeff Scott in 2020, they will only have two standalone appearances in conference play. Those will be a Friday night home game October 23rd with Tulsa and then, the previously mentioned final rivalry game with UCF on Friday November 27th.
The Bulls first conference game of the season will be at Cincinnati on October 3rd, while the home opener is East Carolina the following week at Raymond James Stadium.
USF has a tough road slate beginning at Temple on October 17th and then, after the Friday night home game with Tulsa, playing at Memphis November 7th and at Houston November 14th.
The conference is playing 2020 with only 11 members, as UConn has departed and gone back to the Big East. This will also be the first time that the AAC doesn’t play a two six team division format and will instead take the top two ranked teams in conference play for it’s December Championship Game.
Speedy former UCF RB Killins looks to impress at Shrine Bowl
One-player eager to start showcasing himself Saturday afternoon in the pre-draft process in St Petersburg is former UCF speedster RB, Adrian Killins.
Killins ,who just finished four years of highlight runs and touchdowns for the the Knights will participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
— East-West Shrine Bowl (@ShrineBowl) December 2, 2019
Killins is generously listed at 5’9 and 165 lb. and came UCF without much fanfare from Daytona Mainland High School. However, he had been an explosive player on the football gridiron, and he was also a former two time 3A State 200m track champion before coming to Orlando.
Once at UCF in 2016, Killins immediately showed off his explosiveness and moniker of “fastest player in college football” with a 100-yard kickoff return at ECU and an 87 yard touchdown run at “the Big House” in Ann Arbor against Michigan.
His best season was his sophomore year, when he was named First Team All American Athletic Conference RB, as he rushed for 790 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead UCF. He showed versatility and caught another additional 25 passes for 169 yards.
He also set a UCF record for longest play from scrimmage that still stands, in the UCF regular season win over Memphis, as he took a handoff and the looked like a missle racing down the sideline:
Longest run in @UCF_Football history ✔️
Longest run in @American_FB history ✔️
2nd-longest in NCAA this year ✔️
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2017
Killins helped the Knights experience their greatest season ever at 13 – 0 with not only a thrilling double-overtime conference title game rematch win over the Tigers, but a New Year’s Day upset of SEC Powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl for the perfect season.
His next two years under Josh Heupel and his new coaching staff were not as spectacular. But, he still he would make the occasional explosive run and finished his career with over 1,700 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns.
He did leave a final impression with his 115 yards and 1 TD in the regular season finale with USF.
Now, he knows that with his smaller size, even with blazing speed, he will be challenged to stick on an NFL roster, and another way might be as a kick returner. Killins left UCF with a career 21.8 avg on 47 returns as a Knight.
He will likely need to show that part of his game to help him get a realistic shot at the next level. And, we wait to see if there will be explosive plays from him Saturday.