UCF Knights become bowl eligible with win over Cincinnati
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ORLANDO — The UCF Knights are going bowling after a 24-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats, which brought the Knights record to 6-4 and made them bowl eligible for the first time since 2014.
UCF become bowl eligible just a year after finishing the 2015 season with an 0-12 record. The Knights quickly turned the program around under new head coach Scott Frost, making him the first coach in program history to lead the team to a bowl game in his first season.
“I think the key to the turnaround was the players attitude,” said Frost following the game. “They were hungry to have somebody lead them and show them a new way, not that the old way was bad because they won a lot of games around here before.
“But I think after a tough season they were just hungry for a new direction and because of that they bought into everything we were asking them to do, it’s their work ethic and their character that has gotten us here.”
Matthew Wright got UCF on the scoreboard first with a 22-yard field goal that put UCF up 3-0 midway through the opening quarter. McKenzie Milton than extended the lead to 10-0 when he hit Dredrick Snelson for a one-yard touchdown.
Milton played his best football in the first quarter, as he went 11-13 for 100 yards and a touchdown passing. The freshman at one time completed 13 consecutive passes between the first and second quarter, putting him second in the program record book behind Dante Culpepper.
The freshman quarterback finished the game going 22-34 for 150 yards and the one touchdown.
Cincinnati used a 38-yard field goal by Josh Pasley to cut UCF’s lead to 10-3 going into halftime.
The Knights than extended the lead in the second half when special teams blocked a punt and then Justin McDonald picked up the loose ball and returned it to the end zone for a touchdown. That’s the second straight week UCF has scored a non-offensive touchdown.
Jawon Hamilton added another Knights’ touchdown with a 25-yard run early in the fourth quarter that put UCF up 24-3. Cincinnati finished the game with 327 yards of total offense but turned the ball over three times.
“Our defense has gone from being really good to being so disruptive that they’re winning games of us,” said Frost of his defense postgame. “When you see a defense own it to that level, makes it really easy for the offense and the rest of the team to succeed.”
With the win the Knights improve their record to 6-4 and become bowl eligible. UCF have improved from winless seasons to bowl eligibility twice in program history, with the first coming in 2004-2005.
“Coming from 0-12 to a bowl game, that’s proving doubters wrong,” said UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin about the Knights turnaround. “They said we couldn’t do it, so that’s what we did.”
UCF will now prepare for the final home game of the season when they take on Tulsa on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Bright House Networks Stadium. Kickoff will be announced Sunday morning, as well as the broadcasting partner.