Around the American: Championship week

Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton looks for a receiver against Memphis during the first half of the American Athletic Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

There was only one football game in the American Athletic Conference this week, but it was a game to remember. The championship showdown between the Memphis Tigers and UCF Knights is the highlight of this week’s edition of Around the American.

UCF 62, Memphis 55

After last week’s mental “War on I-4” between UCF and South Florida, the entire college football world tuned their TV sets to the AAC Championship game between UCF and Memphis. The promise was more points and craziness in a game pitting the second and third best offenses in the nation against each other, and this game certainly delivered.

Memphis and UCF combined for nearly 1,500 yards of total offense, over 60 first downs, 15 touchdowns and three overtime periods in the game. Knights’ quarterback McKenzie Milton had a bit of a down game, throwing three interceptions, including two bad ones with his team threatening in the red zone, but he still completed 28 of 40 passes for 494 yards and five touchdowns.

The UCF wide receivers were the real stars of the show this time around. Tre’Quan Smith and Dredrick Snelson caught two touchdowns apiece, earning 161 and 145 receiving yards, respectively. They got wide open in space over and over again, making acrobatic catches. It seemed like every other play a Memphis defender was stumbling, and the two stars were gone for a touchdown.

Running back Otis Anderson was the unsung hero of the game for UCF, rushing for 113 yards on 15 carries, scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin was all over the field for the Knights. He had six tackles, two of them for a loss, and two sacks. He also had a hand in the biggest play of the game.

In the second overtime, Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson was trying to score to keep the game going one play longer. He dropped back, and Griffin came screaming off the edge, launching himself at Ferguson, who stood strong, but got the ball out quicker than he wanted to. The throw was intercepted, sealing the win for UCF.

Lost in this game will be the otherwise stellar performance of Ferguson, who completed 30 of 42 passes for 471 yards and four touchdowns. The Memphis running backs Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard and Patrick Taylor had phenomenal games as well, combining for 282 yards rushing, and each scoring a touchdown.

Star Memphis receiver Anthony Miller had one of his biggest games of the year, catching 14 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns.

By winning this game, UCF remains undefeated and has clinched a spot in the Peach Bowl against Auburn as the highest ranked non-Power Five team.


Luke Swanson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at luke.swanson@uconn.edu.