UCF outgained the Terps, but mistakes -- including four turnovers -- doomed them to a loss in double overtime.
Despite outplaying the Terrapins for much of the game, mistakes doomed the Knights to a 30-24 loss in double overtime.
The Knights second overtime possession was scuttled on a questionable call. With UCF freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton's throwing arm moving forward, the ball wobbled out into the helmet of a Maryland defender and bounced away. The play wasn't whistled dead, and Maryland fell on it. Ruled a Maryland recovery, it was upheld on review. On Maryland's possession, Freshman QB Tyrrell Pigrome would weave though the Knights defense for a touchdown run to win the game.
With Senior QB Justin Holman injured or hobbled, and Nick Patti having not impressed in relief of Holman last week, Scott Frost turned to one of his key recruits, freshman McKenzie Milton.
The Knights tried to ease Milton into it with easy passes throughout the day - the ‘long handoff' kind. Which was good. Because Milton had a lot of problems with actual handoffs. On UCF's first drive, he lost a fumble on a botched handoff. He would do the same early in the second. Which is not to say that the bobbled exchange was always a disaster for the Knights. In the third quarter, Milton picked up another fumbled handoff from the turf and ran it in for a touchdown.
All told, Milton fumbled six times. Three of them were lost. In contrast, the Terrapins continued their turnover-less season. Hard to win a game when you're -4 in turnover margin, as the Knights ended up tonight.
UCF suffered from failures of execution throughout the game. The bobbled handoffs. A Milton throw that went too high and ended up tipped for an interception. The Knights were also plagued with pre-snap penalties, especially in the first half. And second string punter Mac Loudermilk made a bizarre decision and ran with what should have been a punt early in the third quarter.
That's not to say UCF was without heroic efforts tonight. Wide Receiver Tre'Quan Smith had a great touchdown catch to ensure the Knights survived into the second overtime period. He ended with over 100 yards catching. TE Jordan Akins had a huge catch in the third quarter to set up the eventual touchdown run by Milton. And the Knights got after Maryland QB Perry Hills all night. Hills was hammered repeatedly throughout the night by guys like Demeitre Brim, Shaquem Griffin, and Tony Guerard. All told, the Knights racked up five sacks. Give credit to the defense, who played fired up and exceeded expectations.
First year Knights head coach Scott Frost will deserve accolades for his gutsy choices, which mostly led to success. Early in the game, Brim had a stellar run on a fake punt. And the Knights went for it on fourth and one late in fourth, with the game tied, and in the shadow of the Knights' own goal posts. They converted. The drive didn't pan out, but it was the kind of aggressive call the Knights haven't seen in ages. UCF ended up 3/5 on fourth down.
While the Knights program has outgrown moral victories, there is a lot of good to take away from the near loss. Milton's mistakes look fixable, and he showed much promise. The defense played inspired for large stretches of the game. The UCF rebuild looks ahead of schedule, even in the wake of a disappointing loss.