UCF Football Linebacker, Derrick Hallman, knew just how crucial UCF’s 32-14 victory over Memphis on Saturday was for the rest of season.
“Big win,” he said as he walked out of the post-game press conference room, shaking the hands of Brett Hodges, and Corey Hogue.
After a 2-2 start to the season, it was just the kind of game the Knights needed.
Brynn Harvey rushed for career-highs of 219 yards and 42 carries, and the offense scored 29 second-half points to propel the Knights (3-2 overall, 1-2 in Conference USA) to their first conference win of the season, and give them confidence heading into a bye week before in-state foe Miami comes to town on Oct. 17.
With the 297 yards of total offense and a couple of scores, the Knights have now outscored opponents 83-39 in the the final two quarters this season.
“I think it was a well played game in the second half by us,” he said. “I think it was [a combined effort by] the offense, defense, and the kicking game. Obviously Cattoi, I don’t know how many field goals he had, but I thought it was a good day for him, and a good conference win.”
Trailing 14-9 with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Knights converted on a 6-play, 58 yard drive in just two minutes, to take the lead at 15-14 after the missed two-point conversion. On that drive, Hodges completed passes of 15, 12 and seven yards down the field, with the last of those being a touchdown pass to Ricky Kay for the score.
"It was kind of the same play each time,” Kay said. “They weren’t covering the flat route. He knew it and I knew it, and I turned my head quick, and did what I could.”
UCF made sure it wouldn’t give up the lead in the final frame. The Knights converted eight first downs in the quarter, and scored on their final three drives of the game to seal the victory. Harvey capped off his career day with a 25 yard touchdown run down the sidelines with 41 seconds remaining as the Knights were trying to run the clock out.
“That run that he broke the tackle on, that’s being a running back,” O’Leary said. "That’s what you expect from your running backs. He got hit in the backfield and broke that, and scampered outside down the sideline. That’s what I have been waiting for him to do in these first three or four games.”
The first half was a slow one for both teams. Both Memphis and UCF converted just 142 yards of total offense in the first quarter, resulting in the first scoreless tie of the season for the Knights after the opening period.
Despite just 88 yards of offense, the Knights were driving late in the first period. Three plays into the second quarter, UCF got on the scoreboard with a 24 yard field goal by Nick Cattoi, giving them the 3-0 advantage with 13 minutes remaining in the half.
Memphis didn’t take long to respond, as a 61 yard bomb from sophomore quarterback Tyler Bass to Duke Calhoun down the sideline put the Tigers up 7-3. Bass accounted for a couple of big plays on that nine-play drive, including two huge runs on third down, of 16 and 11 yards. The sophomore quarterback finished with 115 yards passing, and a touchdown on the day, before being replaced by backup Will Hudgens.
The frustration started there for the Knights offense, as they were able to move the ball down the field, but couldn’t muster any points out of it. UCF took four of its first five drives of the game into Memphis territory, but only converted one field goal.
“It’s kind of the story of our season, isn’t it? It’s really frustrating,” said Hodges, who threw an interception on a drive late in the second quarter in Memphis territory.
“They aren’t doing anything to beat us. We are doing it to ourselves. “We are moving the ball down there and we just have to keep working to finish.”
The second half has been kind to the Knights all season, and this game was no different. Cattoi hit two back-to-back field goals on their first two drives of the second half as they captured back the lead at 9-7, with under four minutes to play. The UCF kicker had a school-record four field goals made in the game, and is now seven for seven in field goals at home.
Hudgens came in at quarterback for the Tigers with four minutes left in the third quarter, and it didn’t take long to have his impact felt in the game. He connected with receivers Deven Onarheim and Calhoun down the field for 23 and 32 yards, respectively, to set up the 12 yard touchdown strike.
UCF’s defense got better as the game went on and held the Tigers down in the fourth quarter, after the Knights took the lead going into the final period. Freshman Josh Robinson added his first career interception when he picked off a Hudgens pass with seven minutes left in the game, and Bruce Miller also had a big game for the Knights, sacking Hudges with under three minutes to play. He finished the game with 3.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
Those plays set up the Knights with a chance to pad the lead off Harvey’s late score. It was the final touches on a much needed win.
“[That] was the icing on the cake,” he said. “It was nice. We were trying to run to ball out and [the line] just broke up and I scored the ball.”
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