The defense of the UCF Knights football team decided to take a nap most of the game this past Saturday afternoon, but they did enough to show dominance by the box score, beating UAB, 49-24, to close their Conference USA regular-season account.
UCF opened with a quick strike, converting a 3rd-and-1 into three straight long plays, capped off by an 18yd touchdown pass from Blake Bortles to J.J. Worton.
In the ensuing UAB drive, the UCF defense decided not to show initially, allowing the Blazers to drive to the UCF 9. From there, they fumbled the ball into the end zone, and A.J. Bouye recovered it for a UCF touchback. UCF hammered back, getting no third downs on the response, capped off with a Latavius Murray 3yd TD run. Murray had 32yd rushing on that drive, and Jeff Godfrey caught a 17yd pass.
After matching three-and-outs, UAB drove into the second quarter. They made it to the UCF 9, but went for it on 4th and 1, and got stuffed by Jonathan Davis, turning the ball over. UCF bogged down at their own 42yd line and punted away. UAB again got within 10, but got stopped once more, and settled this time for a field goal.
After a UCF three-and-out, UAB got pinned at their 1yd line. They were stuffed, and a punt went badly, with J.J. Worton returning it to the UAB 9. Two plays later, Latavius Murray ran it in 9 yards for the TD. Shawn Moffitt’s third PAT made it a 21-3 game.
UAB resorted to the passing game, and got some lucky long bombs on their next drive. But on 3rd and 10 from the UCF 14, Blazers quarterback Austin Brown got intercepted by Lyle Dankenbring, who netted a 78yd pick-six completely untouched. UAB would answer this time with a 76yd TD pass to Patrick Hearn on their next drive.
Quincy McDuffie got a huge 44yd kickoff return, and UCF wasted little time on the 2-minute drill, with Bortles nailing a 4yd pass to J.J. Worton at the end to give UCF a 35-10 lead at halftime.
UAB’s first drive of the second half made it to midfield, and no further. From there, Blake Bortles got a couple long passes to true freshman Breshad Perriman (15 and 30 yards, to be exact). Quincy McDuffie capped the drive with an 8yd TD run.
A 42-10 lead seems insurmountable, right? As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” Jonathan Perry came in at quarterback for UAB and carried them on a 12-play, 75yd drive, capped off by a 2yd QB keeper for a touchdown.
UCF went on a long drive of their own, but got halted at the UAB 10yd line, deciding not to kick a FG with a 4-score lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Jonathan Perry again led the Blazers on an 85yd touchdown drive, capped with a 15yd pass to Darrin Reaves. They also recovered an onside kick, but got stopped at the UCF 23 on the ensuing drive.
At this point, UCF went for the dagger. Latavius Murray hammered a couple first downs, then Quincy McDuffie ran 43yd for the touchdown. Moffitt’s seventh PAT kick made the score 49-24. UAB drove 55 yards on their last drive before getting stopped at the UCF 25 with a 4th-down sack.
UAB won the offensive battle, 599 yards to UCF’s 473. But they also lost two turnovers to UCF’s zero, not counting their turnovers on downs.
Blake Bortles was 17-of-23 for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns. Quincy McDuffie ran 79 yards with 3 touchdowns, and Latavius Murray added 94 yards and a touchdown. Breshad Perriman, Jeff Godfrey and Dontravius Floyd each caught for over 40 yards, but J.J. Worton caught both of Bortles’s TD passes. UCF did not have a kick return of less than 20 yards, while UAB averaged 13 yards on kick returns as a team.
With the win, UCF won the Conference USA East Division, and have a chance to leave the conference with their third title. They will head to Tulsa on Saturday afternoon at 11am CST (Noon local time) to determine that. Tulsa lost their finale against Southern Methodist this past Saturday, and UCF showed heart at the end of their match to Tulsa. The question is, was the defensive issue for UCF just a matter of looking past their opponent? Can they learn the lessons of their previous meeting and leave Conference USA on top?