SMU showed its firepower on the first play of the game. James Proche caught a pass from Ben Hicks and broke numerous Knight tackle attempts en route to an 86-yard touchdown run.
While Proche had a big game, mostly on that one play, the UCF defense shut down SMU’s highly-touted, dangerous receiving duo of Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn. Sutton had nine touchdowns coming into the contest and averaged 88.2 yards per outing. Quinn was averaging 109.2 yards with seven scores.
Quinn and Sutton tallied just 47 and 46 yards, respectively. Neither had a catch of longer than 17 yards and neither found the end zone.
“I’m proud of the defense … Coach (Erik) Chinander, all the guys on that staff and the kids on the defense, especially those guys on the back end,” Frost said. “For not getting a ton of pass rush, I thought our back end held up really well against some really dynamic receivers.”
Safety Tre Neal said it was a challenge facing SMU’s wideouts.
“Those two guys (Quinn and Sutton) are really good,” Neal said. “Hats off to them. Even their slot guys, they have a receiving corps that complements each other really well. They’re pretty good.”
The UCF defense allowed just 17 points to the Mustangs on the night, with seven SMU points scored on an interception return. Take out the first play of the game and from there on, UCF really slowed the explosive Mustang offense, holding them to just 10 points over the next 88 SMU snaps.
“After that (first play), we kind of locked in and started wrapping up and going with our technique,” Neal said.
As well as the defense played through much of the game, it could have all been for naught. Twice late in the game, the Knights’ defenders were asked to go out and protect a seven-point edge. Twice, they came through.
“That’s one of the better teams in our league that we just played,” Frost said immediately after the game. “They’re coached well. They play hard. We found ourselves in a close game that we probably shouldn’t have been in. I loved the way our team responded, particularly on defense. Our kids found a way at the end. We were in a situation this time where our defense had to go out and get a stop, we stumbled on offense and they had to go get another stop. It shows a lot of heart to do what those kids did.”