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.
UCF trying to regain form part of our college primer
The theme for week 8 is redemption for some teams like: Florida State, Florida, and UCF, while South Florida and Miami will look for some continued success.
The Gators are coming off of their first loss of the season even though they played one of their best games of the season. With LSU now behind them, the time now is to focus on South Carolina. The Gamecocks are coming off one of their best wins since the Steve Spurrier era defeating Georgia last week. The Gators will look to avoid the same fate this week.
Ryan Hilinski will start for USC after he was knocked out with a knee injury last week. Coming off his best performance of the season minus the crucial interception Kyle Trask will need to do it again. The South Carolina offense did just enough last week to get the win this time around the Gators offense should put up more of a challenge than the Bulldogs did. If the Gators can get consistent offense like they did last week, they should be heading into the Cocktail Party with a win.
The Seminoles are coming off a gruesome loss to Clemson. After back to back wins, some thought the Noles were turning things around and might compete with the Tigers for a little bit. Well, those people were wrong as the Noles got rolled by the score of 45-14. Now the Noles will prepare to take on an upstart Wake Forrest team coming off their first loss of the season.
Wake could be without star QB Jamie Newman and will turn to Sam Hartman. Meanwhile, the Noles don’t even know who will be under center for their team when the ball is kicked off at 7:30. The Noles do have Cam Akers, though, and the Decans have had their fair share of issues stopping opposing running backs. Expect the Noles to feed Akers early and Often.
The Knights are in new waters this year. They have already lost two games this season, and all eyes will be on how they respond. UCF will be back at home for a night Homecoming game against ECU. No better time for the Knights to bounce back than at home where they still haven’t lost at. Expect the whole offense to bounce back, especially QB Dillon Gabriel. Gabriel (above) is still just a freshman, and growing pains are to be expected from the first year QB. Look for him and Gabe Davis to reestablish the reliable connection for another score.
The Hurricanes will look to win their second game in a row when Georgia Tech rolls into town. The Jackets have struggled this season to a 1-5 record, and the Canes are looking to make it 1-6. N’Kosi Perry will get the start for the second consecutive week. With Perry in the Canes seem to be working the ball downfield more and really trying to utilize Jeff Thomas more.
The duo will get a few chances to strike against tech in this contest. DeeJay Dallas has been held under 100 yards in three straight games, but he has an excellent opportunity to break that spell as well.
The South Florida Bulls will head up to the Naval Academy and try to win their second in a row. After an awful start to the season, USF is still playing catch up and trying to at least hit the six-win mark. With the schedule getting tougher and tougher, it will be hard.
The Navy is led by its triple-option stack that is spearheaded by Malcolm Perry. Perry has been a force this season on the ground as expected, but he has shown his arm off a few times this season as well.
For USF to win this game, though, they will need more from the passing game and Jordan McCloud. If he can generate some offense other than Jordan Cronkrite running in a game where possessions will be valuable, the Bulls have a chance.
Zemek- “UCF magic”only over for 2019
I said Saturday morning after the loss to Cincinnati that there was a need to address both the short-term and long-term situations facing the UCF Knights. Saturday morning was the immediate autopsy of a game – and season – which got knocked off track.
This column is meant to address the much bigger picture surrounding UCF.
One sentiment voiced Friday night was that UCF’s run is over. UCF is no longer “a thing.” UCF is no longer relevant.
If any of those commentators or college football fans were talking about 2019 alone, they are correct. UCF has been damaged too greatly and has too flawed a team to realistically stay in the Group of Five “New Year’s Six” bowl chase. Boise State would have to lose twice. Cincinnati would have to lose twice. Memphis would have to lose twice… and even then, UCF wouldn’t be in the clear.
The Knights’ chances aren’t TECHNICALLY finished, but they literally need every possible break – not most, but all – to fall their way over the next two months. That isn’t realistic. The 2019 campaign has been thwarted, even if the AAC championship isn’t entirely out of reach.
If you want to say the UCF hype and magic are over this year, fine. I can certainly accept that.
If you are referring to any period of time beyond 2019, get lost.
This program isn’t going anywhere.
Can we stop for a moment and realize how much horrendous luck the Knights have endured? McKenzie Milton got hurt. Darriel Mack got hurt. UCF’s defense – as I noted Saturday morning – played more than well enough to beat Cincinnati on the road. The Knights’ defense doesn’t need to be spectacular; it needs to be solid, relative to what Josh Heupel expects from his offense.
In 2017 and 2018, UCF’s defensive effort at Cincinnati would easily have been strong enough to win, and win decisively. In 2019? Dillon Gabriel and his receivers, AND his offensive line, were not good enough in concert with each other. They all suffered their share of failures.
If one person or unit did well, the other units didn’t finish the play. With Milton or Mack in there, the odds of such a red-zone disaster would have decreased sharply.
Now imagine a 2020 season without quarterback injuries. All the speed Scott Frost and Josh Heupel have recruited into the program will still be there. UCF has a solid foundation. This program isn’t going anywhere… which leads us to the program which blazed a trail for UCF (and yet doesn’t want UCF to succeed, for obvious reasons).
Before there was UCF, there was Boise State.
The Broncos did what UCF did, only better. (This is not a negative commentary on UCF, just to make sure no one gets the wrong idea.) Boise State played elite non-conference opponents early in the season and defeated them. The Broncos put themselves in position to contend for the national title.
Remember: Boise State went unbeaten in 2009 and defeated a higher-ranked opponent – TCU – in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl than the opponent UCF defeated when the Knights handled Auburn in the 2018 Peach Bowl.
The Broncos also would have played in the 2011 Rose Bowl had their kicker not missed a chip shot at Nevada on the Friday after Thanksgiving. TCU took the spot Boise State relinquished.
UCF rose to a very great height in 2017, but Boise State rose higher in 2009.
That run for the Broncos 10 years ago was not the product of uninterrupted dominance.
In 2007, Boise State lost three times, once by 12 points to WAC champion Hawaii and once to East Carolina in a bowl game.
If people thought Boise State was “over” – not just in that particular year, but for the long haul – they were sadly mistaken.
The Broncos delivered unbeaten regular seasons in 2008 and 2009. They didn’t lose more than one game in the next four seasons after their 2007 stumble.
Will UCF be as dominant as that? No one knows. Just realize that UCF being “over” is a 2019-specific thing, not a long-term reality.
The Knights have stockpiled too much talent to be wished off the stage by college football elitists.
UCF will be back. Mark it down… but not this year.
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