EditorsNote: Tweaks to 3rd, 11th grafs
The eighth-ranked Central Florida Knights overcame a 17-point halftime deficit and extended their win streak to 25 games, beating the visiting Memphis Tigers 56-41 in the American Athletic Conference title game on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.
UCF (12-0), playing its first game without star quarterback McKenzie Milton (knee surgery), has the longest active win streak in the nation.
Milton was replaced by redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr., who lost two fumbles in the first half but finished with four scoring runs and two touchdown passes. Mack’s second scoriing run gave UCF its first lead of the game with 14:28 left in the fourth quarter.
Mack completed 19 of 27 passes for 348 yards and no interceptions. UCF running back Greg McCrae rushed for 206 yards on 24 carries (8.6 average) and one touchdown.
Memphis (8-5) was led by running back Darrell Henderson, who dominated the first half with 207 rushing yards, three touchdowns and a TD pass before going cold after intermission. He rushed for just 3 yards in the second half.
The Tigers were simply unable to stop a UCF win streak that has been exceeded by only three teams this century: Miami (34 from 2000-2003); Florida State (29 from 2012-2014) and Alabama (26 from 2015-2016).
UCF, which was plus-16 on turnovers entering the game, was minus-three in the first half, losing three fumbles, including one by punt returner Otis Anderson and the two by Mack. Memphis scored 17 points off those turnovers.
Henderson got Memphis off to a 14-0 start with touchdown runs of 62 and 12 yards in the first quarter. Henderson added an 82-yard TD run in the second quarter, and his scoring pass to Sean Dykes just 21 seconds before halftime gave Memphis a 38-21 lead.
As a team, Memphis averaged 12.9 yards per carry in the first half.
However, UCF got back in the game in the third quarter as Mack hit Anderson on a 54-yard touchdown pass before scoring on a 4-yard quarterback-keeper.
Memphis closed the quarter on Riley Patterson’s 19-yard field goal, increasing the Tigers’ lead to 41-35. But even that felt like a UCF victory, as the Knights held the Tigers at the 2-yard line, forcing the field goal.
Mack then took over with three straight rushing touchdowns, frustrating the Tigers for the third time in the past two seasons, including a 62-55 win in double overtime in last year’s league title game and 31-30 earlier this season.
—Field Level Media