Around The American: UCF stays unbeaten in thriller against Memphis

Tulsa running back Javon Thomas, right, carries past South Florida defensive back Mekhi LaPointe during a game in Tulsa, Okla. on Friday, Oct. 12. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Tulsa running back Javon Thomas, right, carries past South Florida defensive back Mekhi LaPointe during a game in Tulsa, Okla. on Friday, Oct. 12. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

It was a bye-week for the underwhelming UConn football team this week so we’re taking a look at the rest of the conference in this week’s Around The American, including East v. West matchups and a shootout in Memphis.

No. 10 UCF 31, Memphis 30

The Knights from UCF faced a level of adversity they are not be accustomed to as they tried to extend their nationwide-best winning streak to 19 games. On rain-soaked afternoon, Memphis had amassed a 30-17 lead, gained over 200 yards on the ground and held the Knights to a 1-5 conversion rate on third down. To put it in perspective, the Knights had not trailed by more than three points this season and had the nation’s second-best third down conversion rate. It was not like the first halves the Knights have experienced before.

A UCF defense that allowed Memphis running back Darrell Henderson to reach the 1,000 rushing-yard mark, came out in the second half and stopped three consecutive drives. Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon must have had some of ‘Michael’s Secret Stuff’ in the locker room as his defense shutout the Tigers’ potent offense in the second half.

The first UCF drive of the half came to a halt at a fourth-and-one at their own 29-yard line and left first-year head coach Josh Heupel with a tough decision. Heupel made the gutsy call to bring out his heavy package with 315-pound, defensive lineman Trysten Hill to lead the way for Taj McGowan, who proceeded to take the ball 71 yards for the score.

Within a score now, UCF (6-0, 3-0 The American) needed a stellar final act. Both teams turned the ball over in the fourth but the Knights were able to take advantage of an extra Memphis (4-3, 1-3 The American) miscue before their final scoring drive.

McKenzie Milton led his offense on a 74-yard drive that ultimately scored the game-winning touchdown. Milton faced an early third-and-11 but converted on a 24-yard dart to tight-end Michael Colubiale. A 24-yard run on the next play set up a prime Knights’ scoring opportunity.

From the one-yard line, Milton scrambled, was hit low, tumbled through the air and landed with the ball out-stretched to cross the goal line, giving UCF a late 31-30 lead.

The Tigers almost had the last laugh however. The UCF defense was credited with three more stops to end the game but was bailed-out by an untimely Memphis penalty.

The previously mentioned Darrell Henderson seemed to had scored on a 32-yard run, giving the Tigers the lead with about six minutes to play. An offensive holding call brought the play back, negating the score and leaving Memphis with a heartbreaking loss.

UCF will visit ECU next Saturday for a 7 p.m. kickoff while Memphis travels to Missouri for their first non-conference game of the year.

Temple 24, Navy 17

Quarterback Anthony Russo’s 300 passing yards and one score helped lead his Temple Owl’s to a one-score win over Navy, who threw the ball only 11 times all game for 14 yards.

The Owls (4-3, 3-0 The American) totaled 409 yards behind Ventell Bryant’s 147 receiving yards on eight catches that included the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Rob Ritrovato and Tyliek Raynor lead the way on the ground with a touchdown each and a combined 60 rushing yards.

Navy (2-4, 1-2 The American) only totaled 284 yards on offense with the majority of the production coming from the grounds attack. Running back Nelson Smith rushed 18 times for 108 yards and a score. Fellow running back Lewis Grant was responsible for the one other Navy score on 58 rushing yards.

Temple will host Cincinnati next week with kickoff set for noon, while Navy welcomes in Houston for a 3:30 p.m. start.

No. 23 South Florida 25, Tulsa 24

No. 23 USF narrowly escaped defeat in their matchup with Tulsa. Going into the fourth quarter, the Bulls trailed 24-10 and were facing a likely exit from the AP Top 25.

Behind the lone shutout frame from the Bulls’ defense, Blake Barnett and his team proved why they deserve their national ranking. Although Barnett threw for 237 yards and an interception, his legs proved to be the difference maker.

The Bulls (6-0, 3-0 The American) marched down the field 80+ yards twice, each time capped off with a Barnett rushing score. The quarterback, however, could not convert on the two point opportunity, leaving USF down two with two minutes to play.

One last time USF made their way down the field, this time for 52 yards. With just seconds remaining, Coby Weiss sent the ball through the uprights from 22 yards out, securing the 25-24 victory. The last second victory left Tulsa’s Shamari Brooks’ impressive performance on the backburner. The running back rushed 28 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

The Hurricanes (1-5, 0-3 The American) will travel to take on Arkansas at 11 a.m. next week while USF host UConn for their homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.


Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.arnold@uconn.edu.