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Arkansas State uses special teams and defense to earn Cure Bowl victory over UCF

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The second annual Cure Bowl wasn’t as dramatic as the first but it did deliver plenty more big plays. At least for one side.

Arkansas State jumped all over UCF early and did much of the same in the second half to run away with a 31-13 victory.

The Red Wolves did most of their damage as a result of several short fields setup by special teams and defense. They kicked off a 17-0 barrage in the first quarter with a blocked punt for a touchdown and found the end zone again thanks to three play drive that came about as a result of a short punt that landed at midfield.

Kendall Sanders hauled in a 75 yard scoring pass from Justice Hansen to open scoring in the second half and Arkansas State added another touchdown after recovering a fumble off a punt. Despite all that scoring though, the team managed just 235 yards of total offense in a relatively sloppy effort aside from those big plays.

The defense wasn’t too shabby either with six sacks and three takeaways.

UCF did claw their way back into the game during the second quarter after an extremely slow start, cutting the lead to just seven going into the locker room. Things would get no closer than that however, prompting head coach Scott Frost to even change quarterbacks in the fourth quarter. Starter McKenzie Milton didn’t have a terrible night (22-of-39, 175 yards, one touchdown) in front of the fans in Orlando but received no help from the team’s lackluster ground game.

It was not the way the team wanted to close out 2016 after completing one of the more remarkable turnarounds in college football this season. The Knights were 0-12 at this point a year ago and rallied to get to .500 and make a bowl but came out flat and never could get back into this one.

Part of the reason was because of the stellar play by the Red Wolves as they captured their third bowl victory ever that doubled as their eighth win of the season. Not bad after starting the year 0-4 and a heck of a way to close out an impressive run the past three months.