There had been questions about the legitimacy of UCF’s 12-0 American Conference Championship season. There had been outright disrespect by the College Football Playoff selection committee who continued to leave the Knights around 15th or 14th in their rankings for three consecutive weeks late in the year, before finally moving them into their top 10.
There was doubt about whether they could hang with an SEC team. Well, there aren’t questions or doubts anymore. On the first day of 2018, the Knights out-executed and outplayed the Auburn Tigers of the mighty SEC in a 34-27 Peach Bowl victory to complete their perfect season.
QB McKenzie Milton shook off an awful first half throwing the ball, and led the Knights to two critical second half TDs, as UCF overcame a 20-13 second half deficit to lead 27-20. Milton threw TD passes to RB Otis Anderson and WR Dredrick Snelson capping off long drives to build the lead.
He was named the MVP of the Peach Bowl.
Then, the Knights defense took over and when LB Chequan Burkett raced in front of an Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham pass and took it to the house for a 45 yard TD, it was a 34-20 lead in the fourth quarter.
Auburn would not quit and Stidham led them down the field on an 89 yard TD drive that culminated with Eli Stove 7 yard TD run and the lead trimmed to 34-27. Stidham finished 331 yards 2 TDs but two costly interceptions.
It looked like the Knights were going to put the game away with a clinching drive inside the Auburn 25 yard line in the final three minutes, but for the second time in the second half, failed to convert a field goal. Kicker Matthew Wright, who had a 25 yarder blocked earlier in the half, then missed a 38 yard field goal wide left to give the Tigers life.
But after driving into UCF territory in the final :30. Stidham threw this final pick to Antwan Collier in the end zone, which sealed the win.
Perfect season ✅ pic.twitter.com/7L2SQCcXD4
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 1, 2018
The game was coached by new Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, as he and his former staff of coaches stayed to coach the Peach Bowl and clearly his team responded to finish the unbeaten year.
It’s remarkable reversal for the Knights who were winless at 0-12 two years ago, and now finish as the only unbeaten FBS team at 13-0.
UCF WR Gabe Davis will turn pro
Next year’s UCF offense took a big hit Wednesday , but in the long run, the player leaving may help the program with more publicity at the next level.
Star wide receiver Gabriel Davis has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the upcoming NFL draft.
— Gabriel Davis (@DavisGB1) December 4, 2019
Davis is a true “Florida Boy” growing up in Sanford, and playingl ball at Seminole High school. He has been dominant in his time at UCF, has become one of the best wideouts in the state, arguably the best in his conference and one of the more underrated players in the country.
His numbers have improved each season. As a freshman, he had 27 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had 53 catches for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. Then, this season Davis had 72 catches for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Last season Davis finished on the American All-conference second team. This year, however, he finds himself on the first team and will hope the accolades don’t stop there.
Davis has all of the prototypical traits to be an “X” receiver in the NFL. He has the size at 6’3, but could work on his frame, getting up his listed weight at 212 pounds. In the passing league that is the NFL, teams are always looking for someone with big play ability. Davis is just that, averaging 16 yards a catch for his career.
He has the ability to take the top of a defense with his size and speed, which will intrigue scouts. One area of his game he will likely work on in the offseason will be running after the catch.
We all know his ability to kill you downfield, but scouts will also want to see what he can do catching a short pass. With an absolutely stacked class at the position, it will be interesting to see where Davis goes when the draft rolls around.
Already underrated being from an AAC school expect that to continue during draft time, but also expect him to rise to the occasion.
UCF blows out USF- is it the end for Charlie Strong?
It wasn’t an unexpected result, as UCF won for the third straight time in the rivalry matchup with USF, 34 – 7 Friday night in Orlando. The bigger question is: was it the end for third-year Bulls coach Charlie Strong?
First to the game. The Knights got what they needed in the first half, as freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel led them on three scoring drives to build a 21 – 0 lead from which USF never recovered. Gabriel threw two touchdown passes to his favorite target this season, receiver Gabe Davis (above), and the lead grew to 24 – 0 at the half.
The same pattern continued with USF’s offense as has been the case for much of this season. The Bulls mounted a little to nothing offensively throughout the game until finally breaking through, when running back Johnny Ford scored on a fourth-and-goal late in the third quarter. That trimmed the lead to 24 – 7.
However, Backup QB Darriel Mack led the next Knights answer going 82 yards in 8 plays with Mack carrying two yards for UCF’s final TD of the evening and all but, putting the game away.
The win was UCF’s ninth on the season and they await to find out what bowl game the American Conference will slot them in. This is the first time in three years that the Knights have not played in the championship game of the American Conference. They won the previous two defeating the Memphis Tigers both times and ended up playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game each time, as well.
That included their loss in the Fiesta Bowl to LSU a year ago, which stopped their 25 game win streak.
Back to the Bulls, the loss was their fourth straight to end the year and Strong’s team limped to the finish line at 4 – 8. When you combine this season with losing the remaining six games a year ago, that’s 14 losses in the last 18 games played for Strong’s teams. Friday night was also the fifth loss by 27 points or more for USF this season.
So now, we all wait to see if USF Athletic Director Michael Kelly, who was hired last year, will get rid of the former Texas and Louisville coach or give him one final shot to turn it around in 2020?
Strong is reportedly owed at least $5 million for the remaining two years on his five-year deal that he agreed to in December of 2016.