Trying to complete a perfect regular season in Tampa Friday afternoon, the UCF Knights suffered a devastating injury to star quarterback McKenzie Milton in the second quarter of the game vs. rival USF.
Milton, the leading favorite to repeat as American Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and possible Heisman Trophy finalists in two weeks, suffered a gruesome broken right leg during the second quarter.
Milton hurt the leg while scrambling to his right with 11:20 remaining in the second quarter. He planted while trying to cut near the USF sideline and being hit simultaneously by a defender diving at his legs. His leg obviously stuck in the turf and the impact of the other player hitting him, fractured the leg badly at the kneecap.
ESPN did not show any television replays, but instead focused on both teams coming around the area where Milton had been injured and a cast was being placed on his leg. The photo above shows UCF coach Josh Heupel and USF coach Charlie Strong both looking in, as Milton was on the ground. He was then carted off after several minutes and taken to local St. Joseph’s Hospital next to Raymond James Stadium.
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) November 23, 2018
Backup quarterback Darriel Mack, a redshirt freshman who played for Milton earlier this year in the East Carolina win, took over in the second quarter. UCF eventually scored on a Greg McRae 40 yard touchdown run to make the game 17-0 Knights.
The Knights led 17-3 at the half and Heupel told ESPN that he would tell his team at the break, “let’s go play for him (Milton) and win for him.”
While the injury to Milton and his health are obviously the most important thing, the other ramification is what does this mean for the knights hopes for the College Football Playoff?
If UCF goes on to not only beat the Bulls but also win the American Conference Championship Game next week, they will be 12 and 0 for the second straight year. However, now the 13-person selection committee will likely view them differently without Milton.
While that may seem unfair, it’s not unprecedented, as NCAA basketball tournament selection committees have had to deal with this in the past involving star players and catastrophic injuries at the end of the year and how it determines their seeding.
As we wrote earlier this week, the Knights had broken into the top 10 of the college football playoffs most recent ranking being placed at 9.
Regardless of the outcome of the USF game, the Knights know they are hosting the title game next weekend and found out that their opponent will be a rematch with the Memphis Tigers, who beat Houston to capture the west division of the AAC on Friday afternoon.
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.