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Orlando, FL — The UCF Knights (6-3) have gone 3-0 in the back half of the season and is the first team in the state of Florida to secure bowl eligibility by crashing down on the Tulane Green Wave (1-8), 14-10.
UCF head coach Gus Malzahn had said in Monday’s press conference that they were preparing as if Tulane’s quarterback Michael Pratt would be back from concussion protocol. And play he did as he completed 17-of-28 for 147 yards with no touchdowns. He was also sacked four times by the Knights defense in the effort to neutralize him.
Offensively, UCF struggled to find a rhythm. Dealing with bad field position for most of the evening and twice
in the first half, the Knights found themselves starting on their own seven. Tulane’s defense did their part accruing a total of 11 tackles for loss with 3 sacks on the night including two on back-to-back plays.
Thanks to the Knights’ defense stopping the Green Wave in the red zone on fourth down and Tulane missing a 42-yard field goal to end the half, the Knights had a 7-0 lead going to the locker room.
On the shoulders of their two running backs Tyjae Spears and Cameron Carroll who combined for 137 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown, the Green Wave came storming back to take a 10-7 lead in the first two drives of the second half.
To add injury to insult, UCF’s star running back Isaiah Bowser was shut down in the second half with what Malzahn surmised as an ankle injury. He finished with 14 carries for 54 yards.
In the fourth quarter, the Knights quarterback Mikey Keene led a 38-yard game-winning drive that ended with 23-yard touchdown to wide receiver Brandon Johnson, which included a crucial 3rd-and-10 to keep the drive alive. The true freshman finished his night going 19-of-25 with two touchdowns and tying his career-best 229 yards.
When asked about doing his part in the contest during clutch moments, Keene explained his feelings.
“I feel like playing the position of quarterback you have to live for those moments. You wanna be on the big stage for this game. Everyone wants to live for those big moments,” said Keene. “I try to take advantage of those moments, I try and cease the moment and don’t ever let the moment take advantage of me. I always try to make the most of those and do whatever I can to help the team win. . . This is what we train for.”
Next week, UCF travels to SMU as the toughest game remaining on the schedule. The Mustangs fell to a Memphis Tiger team who was 6.5 point underdogs. This could mean that the Knights have a chance in this one. Of that, SMU will play angrier to put UCF at four losses.