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UCF Knights

Pitt last minute rally stuns UCF Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

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.

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UCF Knights

Speedy former UCF RB Killins looks to impress at Shrine Bowl

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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.

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:

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.

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UCF Knights

Final Power Rankings for 2019

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the final edition of our 2019 power rankings headed into the bowl onslaught and the final Sunday of NFL football. The teams at the top should look familiar, including two that have won their bowl game already. and the final three have definitely deserved to be moved up or into the final list.

Florida Gators – the Gators are prepping for Monday night’s Orange Bowl against the Virginia Cavaliers and will hold down the top spot in the power rankings to dnd season based on their overall consistent performance. A second straight 10-win year and also “New Year’s Six” bowl game validates the hire and the hard work of Dan Mullen, his staff and the players. You consider the Florida’s only two losses in the toughest college conference in land are to #1  LSU and rival Georgia, who won the East and is in the Sugar Bowl themselves.

So, it’s been a good season. Now, can they cap it off what they did a year ago with a Peach Bowl win over Michigan?

UCF Knights – As we wrote on Monday, they finished with a third straight 10-win season by hammering the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa. Freshman QB Dillon Gabriel (above) showed great poise, skill and potential for the future throughout the season. He threw two more touchdowns and ran for another, while being named the Bowl MVP.

UCF clearly has the arrow pointing up and has established itself, as the second-best program in the state behind the Gators.

FAU Owls- A great finish to the regular season, a Conference USA title game win and now, a Boca Raton Bowl win over SMU last Saturday brings the Owls to finish third on our list. Even though coach Lane Kiffin has departed to take over at Ole Miss, former USF, Oregon and FSU coach Willie Taggart slid-into Boca Raton and has a great chance to succeed right away.

Quarterback Chris Robison continued to play well throughout the close of season, including in the win over the Mustangs last Saturday. FAU won 10 games for the second time in three years and is deserving of this slot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Even though the Bucs had their four-game winning streak snapped last Saturday by the Houston Texans, they still have played consistent, good football in the second half of the year and had gotten their record to 7-7.

Yes, QB Jameis Winston has been maddening with the interceptions, but also has been smashing single-game passing records and has been a key part of them being able to score/win games. But, after three more picks last week, Winston needs a good performance in the finale’ with the Falcons Sunday to quiet down the critics that the Buccaneers part with him after this season.

Tampa Bay’s defense under coordinator Todd Bowles has also approved, particularly their secondary where they have spent numerous premium draft picks over the last few years. A win Sunday would only be the third time this decade the Buccaneers don’t have a losing season.

Miami Dolphins – They come off a dramatic overtime win over the lowly Bengals last week in a game, where they collapsed but still found a way to win. It was their fourth one of the season after an 0 – 7 start and clearly the team is playing hard for coach Brian Flores and his staff at the end.

We are still puzzled as to why they insist on not playing QB Josh Rosen in these meaningless games, but it likely means GM Chris Grier and Flores have decided that Rosen is being cut at the end of this season and they will simply eat $4 million dollars in dead cap money.

Finally, the development of DeVante Parker hass continued as he went over 1,000 yards receiving last week and got a contract extension with a bunch of guaranteed money. And, while Miami does have numerous holes to fill, they have a chance to be a .500 team in 2020, if they keep trending in the right direction.

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