UCF wins 17th straight game, pummels Pitt 45-14


Thomas Yang

Senior running back Darrin Hall (22) leaps over Georgia Tech senior linebacker Brant Mitchell (51) while carrying the ball. The Panthers have lost two straight games since that win.

By Trent Leonard, Sports Editor

The University of Central Florida came into Saturday’s home game versus Pitt with the nation’s longest win streak, having won 16 straight games dating back to last year’s undefeated season.

The Panthers, on the other hand, entered on a low note, having lost to previously winless North Carolina the prior week.

With that said, the two teams continued their respective opposing trajectories as UCF beat Pitt in blowout fashion, 45-14. The Panthers looked listless on both sides of the ball, producing a season-low 272 yards of total offense and allowing a season-high 568 yards on defense.

The game got out of hand early on, with the Knights assembling a quick 14-0 lead and a 31-7 lead by halftime. UCF junior quarterback McKenzie Milton was the standout performer of the day, accounting for all six of his team’s touchdowns — four passing, two rushing.

On UCF’s first drive, Pitt’s defense looked like a unit improved from the one that allowed a season-high 486 yards to North Carolina last week, forcing the Knights to punt after four plays.

That defensive stop would turn out to be an anomaly.

The Panthers returned to form on the second drive, conceding a 64-yard catch-and-run to UCF junior running back Adrian Killins Jr. Two plays later, junior quarterback McKenzie Milton punched the ball in from five yards out to give the Knights their first lead of the game, 7-0.

After going three and out, Pitt again struggled to stop UCF’s high-powered offense, which entered the game ranked fifth in the nation with 587.7 yards per game. The Knights cruised 79 yards down the field in six plays, and increased their lead to 14-0 when Milton found sophomore wideout Gabriel Davis in the back of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass.

The Panthers finally got some help from their oft-maligned special teams unit as senior wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes took the next punt all the way back for an 85-yard return touchdown. That score narrowed it down to a one-touchdown deficit with 1:13 left in the first quarter.

But the Knights cracked it right back open to a 14-point lead, responding with a 74-yard touchdown drive. Milton provided the finishing touch with a 23-yard quarterback keeper to make the score 21-7 with 14:50 still remaining in the second quarter.

Pitt looked poised to strike back on its next offensive possession, methodically driving 46 yards on 11 plays. But UCF sophomore cornerback Richie Grant intercepted quarterback Kenny Pickett at the eight yard line, ceasing the Panthers’ momentum. The Knights took advantage of the turnover and scored nine plays later, when Milton found first-year receiver Jason Colubiale for a two-yard touchdown pass.

That touchdown — Milton’s fourth of the day — gave UCF a 28-7 lead with 5:33 left in the half, essentially erasing any hopes of a Pitt victory.

The Knights tacked on three more points when senior kicker Matthew Wright made a 21-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter, making the score 31-7 entering halftime.

It didn’t take long for the Knights to score on their first second-half possession, with Milton finding Killins Jr. for a pass on the second play of the drive. Killins Jr. flashed his impressive speed again, torching the Panther defense en route to a 71-yard touchdown.

The two teams exchanged a couple more scores in fourth-quarter junk time, with Milton passing for his fourth touchdown of the game and Panthers’ junior wideout Maurice Ffrench responding with a 58-yard touchdown dash to make the score 45-14.

That would prove to be the final score, as the Knights’ second unit ran out the clock at the end of the fourth.

No players stood out in Pitt’s post game box score. Senior running back Qadree Ollison led the Panthers ground game with 49 yards — the least of any leading Pitt rusher in a game this season — on 11 carries. Pickett completed 16 of 26 passes for 163 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

That now marks two straight weeks in which the Panther defense has one-upped — or perhaps, one-downed — its record for most yards allowed in a game this season.

Things won’t get much easier next Saturday, when Pitt faces a quality Syracuse offense led by senior dual-threat quarterback Eric Dungey. That game will take place at Heinz Field, with kickoff set for 12:20 p.m.

Leave a comment.