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UCF Knights

UCF takes to the field in Saturday Spring Game

Florida Football Insiders

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Photo by Icon Sportswire

Year two of the Scott Frost era has been in Spring preparation for the past few weeks, and the UCF Golden Knights will conclude their April work Saturday night in their Spring Game.

There is intrigue around QB Mackenzie Milton who as a true freshman from Hawaii a year ago showed flashes of promise with his arm, but also his wheels.

Milton will lead the UCF “Fast” team which will be mostly the starters on both sides of the ball. The UCF “Fierce” team will be second string and guys trying to prove themselves for the start of the fall.

One of those defenders on the “UCFFast” team is fifth year senior DB/LB hybrid Shaquem Griffin, who was second in tackles for the Knights a year ago, had 20 TFL’s and an INT in 2016.

He is clearly one of the players UCF will count on defensively and he is ready to see Golden Knight fans out in full force:

The Knights game will be played under the lights on campus at the newly renamed “Spectrum Stadium” in Orlando.

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UCF Knights

Former UCF star-Vikings DB Mike Hughes has torn ACL

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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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UCF Knights

Gutsy call by UCF coach Heupel fuels comeback win at Memphis

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David Butler II- USA Today Sports

Sometimes dramatic crazy games come down to one play or one call. And a lot of times they come down to such a call at the end of the game. On Saturday in Memphis, UCF Coach Josh Heupel pulled out a truly gutsy-almost crazy 4th Down call.

And the resulting touchdown turned out to be the biggest play of UCF’s heart stopping 31-30 win over the Tigers.

Memphis clearly had the 10th ranked and unbeaten Knights on the ropes down 30-17. Running back Darrell Henderson had run for over 150 yards and a couple of scores late in the third quarter.

The Knights and Star Quarterback McKenzie Milton were struggling to get anything going. Rain was falling making the conditions even worse at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Then the first time-first year head coach, decided to roll the dice, BiG TIME.

Facing fourth-and-one at his own 29-yard line with just under 3 minutes remaining in the third, Heupel initially left his offense out and lined up to go for the first down, but then, took a time out.

However, out of that timeout Heupel sent the offense and Milton back on the field and this was the result:

With 310 lb. defensive tackle Tristyan Hill leading the way, equally bulky running back Taj McGowan rumbled 71 yards for the game-changing touchdown on a play that will be talked about for years in UCF-lore.

Yes, there was a whole 4th quarter still to play, and Milton eventually led the go-ahead touchdown drive scoring himself on a leaping run into the endzone.

Yes, the Tigers still had two different chances to get into field-goal range, including in the final seconds of the game. Yet, the UCF defense stopped them.

Nevertheless, the play of this game was that 4th Down call resulting in that momentum-changing touchdown at a time in which UCF was perhaps on the verge of getting knocked out. And their unbeaten streak was clearly hanging int he balance, and a loss for the first time in almost two calendar years was becoming reality.

Instead, it’s 6-0 and 19 straight wins.

Coaches often get criticized for being conservative.

No one can ever accuse Heupel of being that kind of coach, ever again, after the decision he made on fourth down, deep in his own territory to swing the momentum, and help his team beat Memphis.

Guts doesn’t say enough.

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UCF Knights

Repetition is theme for UCF heading to Memphis

Matt Zemek

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The UCF Knights are repeatedly winning this season. They are repeatedly thriving. Last year, in the AAC Championship Game against the Memphis Tigers, they repeatedly moved the ball and scored in a game which featured 117 points and nearly 1,500 yards, 965 in the air. Repetition has become central to UCF’s identity. Teams keep trying to take down this juggernaut, but the Knights “Charge On!” and keep rolling.

Sustaining excellence is a beast of a process — in any sport, yes, but especially in college football.

Look at how quickly TCU has tumbled from a place of national significance in a few short weeks. Look at how this season has quickly spun sideways for the Auburn team UCF outclassed in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day. Success can and does vanish in a heartbeat. UCF has refused to cede its place as the Group of Five favorite, but that process of repetition must continue on Saturday against Memphis in a rematch of that AAC firefight in Orlando last December.

Much as a team cannot sit on a lead until it has driven the final dagger into the opponent, the Knights can’t rely on the past to assume they can defeat opponents with ordinary effort and average performances. The focus on maintaining a high level of quality must remain intact.

On paper, this match-up — like any remaining AAC game for UCF in 2018 — appears lopsided. There is no team in The American which seems capable of standing in the ring with UCF and throwing punches for 60 minutes. The AAC West — where Memphis resides — is noticeably weaker than in previous seasons.

Memphis joins Navy and Houston as programs which have won West Division titles but are now stumbling in the darkness, searching for the magic they once had. Tulane crushed Memphis a few weeks ago, but that was not part of a dramatic turnaround for the Green Wave. Tulane has generally struggled this season; Memphis was the outlier on the slate.

That detail sheds light on the challenge facing UCF in Week 7. Memphis — having been kicked to the curb by Tulane — isn’t nearly as good as it was last year, when it very nearly won the AAC and had Riley Ferguson pitching the ball to stud receiver Anthony Miller. Those two players are gone, and as a result, these Tigers can be tamed so much more easily in 2018 compared to 2017.

Yet, much as Memphis was a game Tulane circled in red all offseason and badly wanted to win, you know — without any doubt — that Memphis did the same to this UCF game. This is Memphis’ Super Bowl in 2018, the game the Tigers want to win more than any other. This is the game in which coach Mike Norvell will pull out all the stops and reach for every trick in the grab bag of ball plays to flummox UCF’s defense.

This is the game great college football teams handle, the game in which a wounded underdog goes all in at the poker table to win the one contest which possesses supreme emotional value and resonance. Memphis will probably not play as hard or show as much resourcefulness the rest of the season as it will against UCF.

McKenzie Milton — pronounced as being physically “fine” by head coach Josh Heupel after an injury scare in Week 6 — has to get back in the saddle and silence a frenzied crowd at the Liberty Bowl stadium. If Milton wants an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony as a finalist this December, a masterclass on ABC television in a rematch of a 2017 AAC classic — one which propelled the Knights into the Peach Bowl and the national spotlight — will provide substantial leverage.

That, however, is an individual goal. If Milton plays at or near the ceiling of his capabilities, the most important thing about Saturday’s game is that it will reaffirm UCF’s supremacy — and its sense of control — in the AAC, which could ripple through not just the second half of this season, but bear fruit into 2019.

Repetition — it is what athletes and the teams they play for must do in order to affirm greatness. Handling the kind of challenge Memphis poses on Saturday will offer one more indication that UCF is on its way to a New Year’s Six bowl showcase… but no one on the Knights can take that for granted.

College football wasn’t built that way, and it’s not going to change, either. UCF has to win an opponent’s Super Bowl once again.

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