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No. 9 UCF remains undefeated but loss of QB Milton clouds outlook moving forward

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For the second straight year, No. 9 UCF (11-0, 8-0 AAC) will enter the AAC Championship Game without a loss on their record, putting them one win away from a likely trip to a New Years Six bowl game. The Knights finished off their regular season with a clean 11-0 record after securing a 38-10 win on the road against South Florida (7-5, 3-5 AAC) on Friday. The win, the 24th straight for the program, came at a price for UCF, however, as starting quarterback McKenzie Milton suffered what appeared to be a severe leg injury in the first half that required him to be carted off the field for further medical treatment.

Coming off the bench to lead the offense for UCF in the absence of Milton was Darriel Mack Jr., but the Knights could get by with the running game and a strong defensive effort to carry the load. Greg McRae rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns to power UCF past the Bulls. As a team, UCF rushed for 325 yards. McCrae’s third touchdown run, a 31-yard run, essentially slammed the door shut on South Florida after Charlie Strong made a puzzling decision to punt away from the USF 43-yard line on 4th & 1 with USF trailing 24-10 in the fourth quarter. Four plays later came McCrae’s long touchdown run. UCF outscored South Florida 14-0 in the fourth quarter and 21-7 after halftime.

Milton’s injury was severe enough to prevent him from returning to the game, but there was no updated on his status moving forward. However, odds are he will not be available next week for the conference championship game. As such, how UCF fares without their MVP quarterback in the near future will be scrutinized heavily as UCF is sitting in position to not only compete for a chance to play in a big bowl game, but how this potentially impacts their standing in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee should a few breaks open things up for UCF down the line. But in order for that to matter, UCF has one more game to win first.

South Florida played the entire game without Blake Barnett, who was banged up himself. That led the Bulls to split the duties between Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean, but neither was able to spark the South Florida offense against a determined UCF defensive effort. Running back Johnny Ford had 16 carries for 120 yards, but that was the highlight of the offense for the Bulls. South Florida was stooped twice on fourth downs, including one at the UCF three-yard line that was followed by a 97-yard UCF touchdown drive in the first half. Getting stuffed twice on fourth down may have led Strong to decide to settle for a field goal deep in UCF territory in the second quarter when a touchdown would have been much more important.

UCF will host Memphis in the AAC Championship Game next weekend in Orlando. The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Saturday, Dec. 1. The game will be a rematch of last year’s AAC Championship Game, won by UCF by a score of 62-55 in double overtime, and an earlier regular season meeting this year in Memphis won by UCF 31-30. A win by UCF next week at home will likely send UCF back to a New Years Six bowl, which would make the Knights the first Group of Five team to make consecutive New Years Six bowl trips in the College Football Playoff era.

South Florida will slump their way into the postseason after ending the season on a five-game losing skid. But the Bulls have enough wins to go to a bowl game, which will be determined at a later time.

UCF loses McKenzie Milton but leads South Florida at halftime

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If UCF is going to finish off another regular season without a loss, they will do so from here on out without quarterback McKenzie Milton. Milton was carted off the field with his right leg in a cast on his way off the field with what appeared to be a devastating injury early in the second quarter. But UCF owns a 17-3 lead on South Florida in Tampa as this game shifts to a battle of backup quarterbacks.

South Florida is playing without Blake Barnett in the offense, instead going with Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean splitting the snaps as Barnett is banged up. In the absence of Milton, UCF is continuing on offense with Darriel Mack. Milton will not return to the game.

South Florida had a great opportunity to strike first in the first quarter but the Bulls failed to capitalize. Nick Roberts intercepted a pass from UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton and returned the football to the UCF 12-yard line. But the Bulls offense could not do anything with the red zone possession. Johnny Ford was handed the football on four straight plays, and the drive stalled at the UCF 3-yard line with a fourth-down stop by the Knights.

That was a problem for South Florida because UCF then marched quickly down the field for a 97-yard touchdown drive fueled by Milton through the air and Adrian Killins on the ground. A sideline catch by Gabriel Davis for a gain of 38 yards was the highlight of the drive, and Davis scored a touchdown on a free play on an offside penalty by South Florida.

Shortly after Milton was carted off the field, UCF extended the lead to 10-0 with a field goal off the leg of Matthew Wright. A 40-yard touchdown run by Greg McCrae later in the second quarter gave UCF a 17-0 lead.

Even without Milton, the UCF offense is still a stiff challenge for South Florida to figure out at the half. But the Bulls need to figure out how to crack the UCF defense first for any of that to mean anything after halftime.

UCF QB McKenzie Milton leaves game following gruesome injury

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UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was taken out of a game early in the second quarter against South Florida with what appeared to be a devastating leg injury. Milton, one of the top offensive players in the American Athletic Conference, suffered the injury at the end of a play when he was running for a first down.

The entire UCF team came out to the field and took a knee as medical trainers quickly attended to Milton, who was then taken off the field on a cart. Trainers had wrapped his right leg in a cast as they placed him on a cart.

Milton had completed five of 10 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown with one interception as UCF was leading South Florida 7-0. No immediate update on his injury has been reported, but we will stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

The loss of Milton, of course, would be a critical blow to UCF as the Knights are attempting to play their way to a second straight New Years Six bowl game.

UCF started game at East Carolina without McKenzie Milton

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UCF starting quarterback McKenzie Milton did not start Saturday night’s road game at East Carolina, but the reason why is anybody’s guess at this point.

Milton did have a banged-up ankle after last week’s win at Memphis, but Milton has been shown on the sideline with his helmet, seemingly ready to go in at any moment. As of this point, with East Carolina and the Knights 3-3 in the second quarter, UCF head coach Josh Heupel has not sent in one of the top players in the AAC.

Darriel Mack Jr. started the game at quarterback for UCF, and he has looked shaky at times. He completed five of his first 10 passes for 26 yards and had trouble making a handoff on one play.

We’ll see if Milton gets a chance to come on the field and lead UCF to a win, which would be UCF’s 20th straight win. Maybe Heupel is trying to get a win without putting his MVP in harm’s way?

McKenzie Milton’s six-touchdown night powers No. 16 UCF past FAU

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The longest active winning streak in FBS was extended to 16 straight games by No. 16 UCF (3-0) Friday night in Orlando. McKenzie Milton accounted for six touchdowns as UCF topped FAU, 56-36, in a battle of the defending AAC and Conference USA champions.

UCF started off on a quick foot with two touchdowns on their first two offensive series in the game, building a 14-0 lead before FAU could find any offense to work with. After the Owls strung together 17-straight points, Milton drive UCF down the field in the final 90 seconds for a go-ahead touchdown and UCF never really had to look back from there. UCF scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 42-23 lead into the fourth quarter.

Milton had himself another big game. Milton passed for 306 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 81 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. UCF piled up 546 yards of offense and converted seven of 11 third down plays for a first down.

FAU got a productive night from their offensive star, Devin Singletary. The running back rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns and was a difference-maker that provided a much-needed spark in the first half. But UCF was too much for FAU to handle over four quarters. FAU turned the football over twice, including on the game’s opening possession when Chris Robison was picked off. A second interception late in the third quarter stalled a promising looking drive as well.

Having played three games, UCF continues to look like the best Group of Five team in the race for a spot in the New Years Six bowl lineup. No Group of Five school has made back-to-back trips to the New Years Six under the College Football Playoff format, but UCF has shown no reason to suggest they are incapable of becoming the first. With Boise State losing last week and the AAC piling up some good wins as a conference (helping to out-weigh a few bad losses), the AAC looks to be putting itself in solid position to send its champion to a big bowl game at the end of the year. UCF’s biggest competition will come in conference games later on, including matchups with schools like Memphis and South Florida, but having a head-to-head win against a possible Group of Five conference champion is nice to have in the pocket later on.

FAU’s search for a win against a top 25 team will continue to drag on. With the loss, the Owls fell to 0-20 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

UCF will stay home next week for its first and only game against a power conference opponent this season. The Knights will host the Pitt Panthers. UCF had a game against North Carolina canceled due to Hurricane Florence last week and had a game against Georgia Tech wiped out last season so the opportunity to finally play an ACC opponent will be welcomed by the Knights.

FAU will begin the quest to defend their Conference USA championship from last year next week by opening conference play on the road against Middle Tennessee State. Middle Tennessee is off this week after losing at Georgia last week. A bye week before a home game against the Owls is favorable, although FAU is still likely to be the favorite next week and in Conference USA.