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UCF Knights valiant but LSU better in Fiesta Bowl

Matt Zemek



Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 Fiesta Bowl will be remembered as the game which was debated and litigated about UCF and it’s rightful place before it even started.

It became known in the minutes before kickoff that other LSU defensive starters would not play in this game.

The attrition on LSU’s side counterbalanced the fact that UCF was missing McKenzie Milton, arguably the most important individual player in this game. LSU was missing MORE bodies, but UCF was missing the most SIGNIFICANT body

Mindful of the previous season’s Peach Bowl, in which the familiar song and dance emerged from the SEC about how Auburn wasn’t that motivated against UCF, the 30 minutes before this Fiesta Bowl were filled with a political clash.

LSU and SEC fans were saying, “You can just feel the anti-SEC backlash coming, when in fact this won’t be a commentary on LSU’s attitude. We just didn’t have enough players!”

UCF fans were saying, “It’s the SEC, and we don’t have McKenzie Milton LSU, if it is really good enough, will beat us even without several players.”

None of that even began to touch on the UCF discussion relative to the College Football Playoff. Even without their best player, the Knights were going to be judged by the outsiders without any curve, without any allowance for missing Milton. Such is the cutthroat nature of public debate these days. No leniency, no nuance, no context are afforded when the stakes are high and arguments have to be maintained.

UCF needed to shrug off those outside voices before kickoff. Now that this Fiesta Bowl is over, nothing has changed.

The Knights can’t allow the rest of the country to determine how they should feel after this game and this performance.

LSU was better and deserved to win, but UCF can’t be too upset with its display in Glendale, Arizona.

Yes, LSU won 40-32 and the final stats suggested a bloodbath. The Tigers moved the ball better and racked up far more yards. If LSU had been able to avoid penalties and turnovers in the red zone, this game could have been a disaster for the Knights. As it was, UCF did extremely well to lose by only one score and show that it fundamentally belonged on the same field as LSU.

It is easy to get caught in the trap of comparing this season — and this New Year’s Six bowl — to last season, but last season, UCF had Milton and Shaquem Griffin, two elite players and leaders on both sides of the ball against Auburn.

This year, UCF didn’t have that colossal presence to anchor either its offense or defense. Darriel Mack didn’t play poorly so much as he didn’t have all the tools — at this point in his development and evolution — to pick apart the LSU defense, even in the Tigers’ shorthanded state. Mack was never going to deliver a perfect game. All that reasonably could have been asked of him was to make a few clutch throws in important moments.

He by and large reached that standard. He threw multiple passes which should have gone for touchdowns or really long gains.

His receivers dropped those passes. Those were the most critical shortcomings of the day. Those are the kinds of plays a team regrets. Those plays were there to be made. Yet, on a day when LSU moved the ball easily, and made a lot of mistakes in its own right, and still won without having to sweat too much — leading 40-24 with three minutes left despite leaving points on the field — UCF can’t be too insistent on the idea that it should have won this game.

It COULD have won, but should is a weighty word… and it doesn’t apply here.

Yes, the ridiculous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty levied against UCF when the Knights led 14-3 in the first quarter certainly changed the game… but for every atrocious call against UCF, others were made against LSU.

This was a game in which both teams had legitimate injury-based limitations, and both teams had legitimate gripes about the awful officiating. The long and short of the matter is that LSU won… and UCF made LSU work the full 60 minutes to get the job done.

Given everything UCF was fighting against, the main goal for this team was to deliver an effort which could sustain a sense of pride after another perfect regular season and an enormous collection of achievements under withering pressure.

Only an extreme perfectionist would look at this UCF team — sans its best athlete at college football’s most important position — and think the Knights fell short.

This was a gutsy, resilient, pick-yourself-off-the-mat performance from a lot of different players — a defensive front which kept fighting, an offensive line which had its bad moments but didn’t collapse, and from Mack, who made several great throws but simply wasn’t rewarded (enough) for them.

The national media and fans from other conferences will find it easy to dismiss UCF after this Fiesta Bowl.

The Knights should know they don’t have to give any credence or validity to those voices. They know that in tune with the rest of their splendid 2018 season and this amazing two-year run, they showed they belonged. They showed why they have achieved all they have achieved over the past 24 months.

It doesn’t have to be good enough for anyone outside the UCF locker room; it just has to be good enough for the Knights.

I have no doubt that it is… and that it will be remembered as such 20 years from now.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

UCF Knights

USF and UCF got American Conference 2020 schedules Tuesday

Florida Football Insiders



Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

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UCF Knights

Speedy former UCF RB Killins looks to impress at Shrine Bowl

Florida Football Insiders



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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