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Rapid Recap: UCF Blows Lead Falls to Houston

Ari Russell

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(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

Going into the halftime in Houston, UCF, had what seemed like a comfortable 21-3  lead against the University of Houston.  Then UCF scored the first points of the third quarter going up 24-3. Then Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. took over the game. Ward Jr. would run for a score and throw for a score to cut the lead to 24-17 in the third quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, it was all Houston, with Ward Jr. putting the Cougars in the lead for good, running for his second score of the game, with 7:27 left. Houston wins, 31-24.

UCF’s offense was anemic throughout the entire game, gaining only 195 total yards. If it weren’t for Ward Jr’s three INTs, this game would never had been nearly as close. The Knights move to 4-4 overall in 2-2 in the AAC. Houston avoids another upset, moves to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in conference.

Born in the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C., Ari Russell watched the rise of the 1980’s Miami Hurricanes and knew that he had to be part of the “U” someday. After graduating from Coral Gables, Ari rose through the ranks of the former XM Satellite Radio and then Sirius/XM as college football executive producer. He later spent 2 seasons as the publisher of the website “Beyond U Sports” focusing on major college football/basketball. Ari brings a great perspective on everything Miami, including the Dolphins to F.F.I.

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UCF Knights

UCF looking for 20 wins in row leads our Saturday college primer

Florida Football Insiders

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Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now well into the season and things are starting to take shape in this college football season. And one team in the state, UCF, remains perfect. Can they keep it up and what happens to two other Florida schools hosting games Saturday?

Here goes:

FSU vs. Wake Forest  3:30 p.m.

The Noles have had a tough and unusual two weeks. First, after being up 27 – 7 on rival Miami in the third quarter two Saturdays ago, they watched in horror, as the Hurricanes roared back with 21 unanswered points and sneak out a 28 – 27 comeback win. As if the loss wasn’t tough enough to deal with, the Florida State program, along with much of the panhandle of Florida, had to deal with the actual Hurricane Michael.

That displaced the Seminoles staff and players for several days during their bye week and the beginning of this week. Now, the focus turns back to the field and the home game that is very winnable. While Wake Forest is 3-3, they have been beaten decisively recently by Notre Dame and Clemson in their last two games.

Now let’s see if FSU can continue that trend by getting quarterback Deondre Francois and their ground game led by Cam Akers rolling early in this one.

UCF at East Carolina 7 p.m.

It was a heart-stopping come back on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Memphis last week for the Knights. Down by 13 points in the second half UCF pulled out a gutsy 4th and 1 that turned into a 71-yard touchdown and flipped the game in their favor for good.

McKenzie Milton led the go ahead touchdown drive and took it in himself for the winning points in the 31 – 30 victory. Milton was named the AAC player of the week for the 4th time already this year on Monday.

East Carolina has had an up-and-down season that includes a win over North Carolina early in the year, but they have recently been blasted by Temple and Houston by a combined score of 91 – 26.

A victory by UCF will make it an even 20 consecutive wins since the start of last year. Look for Josh Heupel’s team to take control early in this one.

USF versus UConn 7 p.m.

The epitome of living on the edge is the USF Bulls. Back at home for a Saturday night conference tilt with Connecticut, USF barely survived with a 15 points second-half comeback last Friday Night in Tulsa.

As our Matt Zemek wrote, this is the last exhale-type game for the Bulls against a lesser opponent before a tough stretch run that will include Houston Temple and eventually UCF.

Will quarterback Blake Barnett and running back Jordan Cronkrite have an easy night of it in Tampa? Cronkrite has four consecutive one hundred-yard games and has been USF most consistent offensive weapon.

Don’t look for much resistance from the Huskies who have been beaten by at least 30 points in each of their last three games with Syracuse, Cincinnati and Memphis.

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UCF Knights

UCF thrilling win over Memphis scored ratings for ABC/ESPN

Florida Football Insiders

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Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s thrilling 31 – 30 win by UCF at Memphis to keep their unbeaten season alive scored a significant overnight rating for ABC/ESPN.

The Knights 13-point comeback win ended up registering a combined 2.2 national rating along with the split broadcast of the Washington-Oregon Pac-12 Showdown. The games were shown on a split feed of ABC/ESPN depending on if you were in the eastern or western half of the country.

ESPN frequently does split the feed of the games to maximize regional viewership. The 2.2 rating is solid and typical of that slot.

For example, it defeated the stand-alone national broadcast by NBC of Notre Dame’s comeback win over Pitt. That registered a 2.1 national rating Saturday afternoon, though NBC started that game an hour earlier than UCF-Memphis.

Likewise, number 1 Alabama’s blowout win over Missouri was a standalone game in prime time on ESPN everywhere in the country and with less competition at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Still, it received the same 2.2 rating as the Knights game.

The CBS broadcast of LSU’s upset of Georgia, which was on at the same time as UCF, won the weekend with a staggering 3.7 overnight rating. That is tremendous for a daytime slot on a network and with the volume of competition of televised college afternoon games.

For comparison, that CBS rating was up 68% from the same slot a year ago, which had Auburn playing LSU. And it narrowly defeated the national prime time ABC broadcast of Michigan-Wisconsin which got a 3.6 rating.

Back to UCF, which has a 19 game win streak at the moment and a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback in McKenzie Milton, that solid rating and those story lines mean that the Knights will likely be featured again by ABC/ESPN coming up.

The 2017 UCF Knights already delivered two tremendous television ratings for ABC/ESPN.

This included their Friday after Thanksgiving thrilling win over rival USF, which was the highest rated over the air daytime college football broadcast of the season. “The War on I-4” was shown nationally, as a standalone game on ABC without much competition.

Further, the Knights upset of Auburn in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s afternoon, also saw a huge increases and Records for ESPN. UCF going for a perfect season and playing an SEC opponent helped greatly.

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UCF Knights

Former UCF star-Vikings DB Mike Hughes has torn ACL

Florida Football Insiders

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings fears for first round pick and former UCF Knights defensive back Mike Hughes were realized Monday, when an MRI revealed he tore his ACL in Sunday’s game.

Hughes was injured in the fourth quarter of the Vikings 27 – 17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Coach Mike Zimmer confirmed the ACL tear and announced at his Monday news conference that Hughes will go on injured reserve and miss the remainder of the Season:

Hughes was taken at the end of the first round in April’s draft after starring as part of the Knight’s perfect 13 – 0 season a year ago.

Hughes was named first-team All-American Athletic Conference with 44 tackles and four interceptions and a team-high 11 pass breakups during that season. His most memorable moment was the game-winning kickoff return touchdown in the final moments of UCF thrilling win over rival USF to finish a perfect 11 – 0 regular season

Hughes had started two games so far this year for the Vikings, and even had an interception return for a touchdown (above) in the opening win over the San Francisco 49ers. He also showed some flashes in the NFL as a return specialist, including a 46-yard kickoff return in the second game of the year with the Green Bay Packers.

Hughes made Seven tackles in the Vikings national television Thursday night loss 38 – 31 to the Rams a couple of weeks ago.

It is the second straight year that a prominent Vikings draft pick has been lost with an ACL injury on the turf at the Vikings home, U.S. Bank Stadium. Last year, second round pick, running back Dalvin Cook of FSU, also suffered a torn ACL  early in the season.

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