Tampa Bay Sports Day

War On I-4: UCF Tops USF in Classic Showdown in Orlando, 49-42

ORLANDO – A kickoff return gave UCF a 49-42 victory over USF in the War On I-4.

With the win, the No. 12/13 Knights (11-0, 8-0) clinched the American Athletic Conference East Division title and set up a championship game against Memphis next weekend at Spectrum Stadium.

“I’m proud of our team, they are [South Florida] a really good football team too. They have won a lot of games over the last two years. I was really impressed with their entire team. Quinten Flowers is a great player and he’s been a great player in this league for a long time,” said UCF coach Scott Frost.

With less than two minutes remaining in a tie game, UCF receiver Mike Hughes hit a seam and went 95 yards for what proved to be the winning TD. A sellout crowd of 47,129 were at Spectrum Stadium.

In a back-and-forth battle, UCF trailed in the fourth quarter for the first time this season. Down 34-28, quarterback McKenzie Milton found a wide open Dredrick Snelson on a 45-yard touchdown toss to give the Knights a one-point advantage.

Milton threw for four touchdowns and 373 yards on 29-of-44 passing on the night.

Otis Anderson hauled in a 23-yard scoring pass on the Black and Gold’s ensuing drive to put the hosts up by eight. But USF wasn’t done.

Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers connected on an 83-yard touchdown pass to Darnel Salmon to tie the score with 1:41 to play. The ensuing two-point conversion for the Bulls tied the game at 42-42 and set up Hughes’ heroics.

“It was a really great effort and I’m really happy with just how hard we played. We kept battling back,” said USF coach Charlie Strong.

UCF opened the game on a tear, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions. Trailing 21-7 after the first quarter, Flowers marched the No. 19/22 Bulls (9-2, 6-2) back into the game, while his defense held the Knights to seven points in the second and third periods.

Flowers finished the game with 503 yards and four touchdowns through the air, along with 102 yards and one score on the ground. Flowers’ huge night wasn’t quite enough to overcome the Knights.

Turnovers were key again, as the Bulls were threatening at the end of both halves, but the Knights came up with a pair of takeaways to keep USF off the scoreboard.

“They have got a lot of great players on the football team and they made plays. We made plays and I guess we made a few more at the end and that was the difference. But those were two fine football teams on the field tonight,” added Frost.

GAME NOTES: Hughes’ kickoff return for a touchdown was his second of the season. He became the fourth Knight in program history to take multiple kickoffs back to the house, and moved into third on the career list. …Flowers shattered USF school records with 605 yards of total offense and 503 passing yards, Flowers tied his career high with four touchdown passes and five total touchdowns accounted for….Flowers also rushed for a game-high 102 yards and his 24-yard touchdown run helped spot USF a 34-28 lead late in the third quarter. With the run, Flowers became just the sixth player in FBS history to post at least 60 passing touchdowns and 40 rushing touchdowns in a career…USF junior Tyre McCants set the school record with 227 receiving yards and a touchdown on nine catches. Salomon also shined with a career-best five catches for 139 yards….Milton threw for four touchdowns and 373 yards on 29-of-44 passing on the night.  He notched his sixth 300-yard passing game of the year, which moved him into sole possession of third in a single season. He trails Daunte Culpepper (1998) and Ryan Schneider (2002) by two games. The sophomore added a touchdown and 56 yards with his feet. He also ran the option to perfection, pitching the ball at the last second to Adrian Killins Jr. for the Knights’ third touchdown.