No. 15 UCF takes care of turnover-prone Temple
PHILADELPHIA — In 2015, Central Florida was wallowing at the bottom of college football, an 0-12 program with no apparent glimmer of light coming from anywhere.
Two years later, Scott Frost is one of the hottest coaching prospects in the country and No. 15 UCF is one of the nation’s hottest teams. The Knights won a school-record 10th consecutive game with a 45-19 victory over Temple on a chilly, overcast Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Knights (10-0 overall, 6-0 American Athletic Conference) took advantage of five Temple turnovers that resulted in 24 points. UCF scored 40 points or more for the seventh time this season and has yet to score fewer than 30 in a game.
“I was a little worried about this game,” Frost said.
“Being the game before the (South Florida game on Friday); being in the cold; being our ninth straight week playing a football game. There were a lot of factors in (Temple) playing better recently, a lot of factors pointing to this potentially being a tough one. Our guys responded.
“We talked about how hard it is to get to 10-0. Not very many people do it. Just a handful of teams every year out of 129 teams in the country may ever have a chance to do it. I put that in front of them last night. It’s hard to win that many games in a row. What these guys have done this year is amazing.”
Temple was playing for a bowl possibility. The Owls (5-6, 3-4 AAC) had their modest two-game winning streak snapped under an avalanche of turnovers — four interceptions and a fumble. The 45 points are the most allowed by Temple since the Owls lost to nationally ranked South Florida (44-23) on Nov. 4, 2015.
UCF sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton was pulled from the game with over two minutes left in the third quarter. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 208 yards and four touchdowns, and he rushed for one score.
UCF held a 31-13 halftime lead and it didn’t even seem that close. Temple held a brief 10-7 lead, when Frank Nutile hit Keith Kirkwood for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 13:37 left in the half. After that, it was all UCF. The Knights scored 17 points over their next four possessions — all coming off of three Temple turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble).
“Honestly, it means a lot to be (10-0). Coach Frost was talking about it a lot, and it’s hard, because a lot of guys aren’t undefeated anymore,” said UCF wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, who caught four passes for a game-high 89 yards and a touchdown.
“We’re looking forward to playing USF a lot. A lot of us remember what happened last year (a 48-31 UCF loss). Basically, this is like payback. We’re ready to go to war.”
Temple’s upset bid started well. The Owls scored on two of their first three drives. They converted three fourth-down plays in the first half. Temple just couldn’t keep control of the ball and the Knights took advantage.
“This was a tough loss, we didn’t send the seniors out the way we wanted to,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said.
“You can’t turn the ball over five times against a team that is that talented and that good. Their quarterback beat us with his feet early, but the big thing was the five turnovers. The flurry there late in the second quarter was tough to overcome.”
The first Owls’ turnover resulted in Milton’s first touchdown pass, a 9-yard toss to freshman receiver Otis Anderson for a 21-10 edge with 9:20 left in the first half. A Temple fumble at its 24 led to a Matt Wright 44-yard field goal, and Nutile’s second interception translated into Milton’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis and a commanding UCF 31-10 lead with 2:36 remaining in the half.
The Knights widened their margin, scoring on two of their first three drives of the second half, which were Milton’s 28th and 29th touchdown passes of the season.
“We wanted to go out on a good note and get a bowl game,” Temple’s starting cornerback Sean Chandler said.
“Their fast tempo was the biggest challenge we had against them. (Milton) was tough to deal with. He’s really mobile. You think you have guys covered down the field with your back turned, and he’s running right behind you. That made it hard for us to play man(-to-man defense).”
NOTES: UCF’s previous best start to a season was a 5-0 mark in the 1988 season, back when UCF played Division II football. The Knights’ 10-game winning streak eclipses 2013’s nine wins in a row. ... UCF WR Tre’Quan Smith has been impressive for the third straight year, leading the Knights in all receiving categories. The junior has 44 catches for 850 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017. ... UCF junior LB Pat Jasinski made his first career interception, which resulted in a Knights’ second-quarter score. ... UCF freshman WR Otis Anderson’s second-quarter touchdown reception was the first of his career. ... Temple WR Keith Kirkwood’s second-quarter TD reception was his fifth this season, tying him for the team lead. It equals his total of TD receptions in his previous two years at Temple. ... Temple QB Frank Nutile’s 74-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Adonis Jennings was the Owls’ longest score this year.