Memphis running back Darrell Henderson has shredded No. 8 UCF’s defense, and the Tigers hold a 38-21 lead over the Knights halfway through the American Championship.
Henderson powered for 207 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries in the half, leading a Tigers attack that totaled 336 yards and four scores on just 26 first half carries. He staked the Tigers to a 14-0 first quarter lead, charging for touchdowns of 62 and 12 yards.
After Greg McCrae got UCF on the board with a 14-yard touchdown run of his own, Memphis answered with another long touchdown run, this one a 70-yarder by Patrick Taylor.
Playing for the injured McKenzie Milton, UCF quarterback Darriel Mack, Jr. completed 12 of his 18 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown in the half, but also ended two of the Knights’ first three drives with fumbles. His first led to Henderson’s second touchdown, and his second handed Memphis the ball at midfield, leading to a 36-yard Riley Patterson field goal, giving Memphis a 24-7 lead after one quarter.
Mack again fumbled on UCF’s next drive, but this one was in the end zone and recovered by Michael Colubiale for a touchdown, putting the Knights within 10, though not for long. Henderson again broke off for a long touchdown run, this one from 82 yards out.
UCF had a great chance to pull back within 10 midway through the second quarter, but McCrae’s 4th-and-2 run from the Memphis 20 was stopped for no gain. Memphis quickly moved back into Knights territory — keyed by a 21-yard Henderson run — but the drive stalled.
UCF took over at its own 6 with 3:39 before halftime, but Mack immediately hit Gabriel Davis for a 44-yard gain to put the ball at midfield. UCF was originally flagged for a chop block, but the flag was picked up — even though replays showed the chop block call should have stood. Either way, McCrae busted off a 47-yard run on the next snap, Mack cut the deficit to 31-21 on a 4-yard pass to Jake Hescock with 2:41 left in the first half.
The Knights forced a second straight punt with just under two minutes remaining — giving UCF a chance to pull within 31-28 at the break knowing they’d get the ball to open the second half — but Otis Anderson fumbled the punt, handing Memphis the ball at the UCF 31.
Memphis capitalized on UCF’s third fumble for a third time with another Henderson touchdown, this one a 4-yard pass to Sean Dykes with 21 seconds left in the first half. The score gave Memphis 17 points off of UCF’s three fumbles and, not coincidentally, a 17-point lead.