Heading into the game, there was a feeling that the Navy game might be a bit closer, that the Midshipmen might provide a challenge that UCF had yet to face this season. Navy runs a tough-to-stop triple-option offense. The Midshipmen hold the ball for long periods of time, potentially keeping UCF’s explosive offense off the field and wearing down the salty Knight defense. The experts agreed with this sentiment, installing UCF as favorites but only by about a touchdown.
The question was asked numerous times at the Knights’ weekly press conference Monday prior to the Navy game. How would UCF handle adversity? To a man, the Knights and head coach Scott Frost believed that when challenges arose, UCF would rise to the occasion.
“We know the challenge we have ahead of us,” Frost said on Monday. “This is one of the best teams in the league and we’re playing them on the road. I’m not worried about that with this team. Our guys are going to be locked in and ready to play.”
The question was asked again Saturday … on the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, in the form of actual adversity. Once again, the question was answered – first with action, then with words.
Every time Navy made a big play or tried to grab momentum, the Knights answered the bell. The fourth-quarter sequence that eventually sealed the victory for UCF is a perfect example.
Clinging to a 24-21 lead midway through the final period, quarterback McKenzie Miltonthrew just his third interception of the season. With Navy moving inside the UCF 40 and looking to tie the game or take the lead, redshirt freshman Brandon (Bam) Moore made what was perhaps the play of the game.
Moore read the option play perfectly, leveled the pitch back as the ball arrived, forced a fumble and recovered it.
Moore said his eyes lit up when he saw the Navy quarterback and running back headed his way. He knew it was his opportunity to respond to a challenge.
“We worked that play all week,” Moore said. “We got the play, my guy motioned and all I had to do was trigger and I made the play. That’s probably the biggest hit I’ve ever laid on somebody. I was just grateful I was able to make the play. It was definitely kinda rough (playing in a close game).”
True freshman Otis Anderson and Milton then put the game away. Taking over at their own 46, the Knights got 41 yards rushing from Anderson, a seven-yard run from Milton and a huge drive-sustaining third-down completion from the duo. When Anderson spurted into the end zone from 10 yards out, the Knights had answered any and all questions about how they would handle adversity.
Frost said that game may have shaved a bit of his life expectancy after getting accustomed to blowout victories. But he said he was proud his team responded the way he expected them to.
“You get in a close game, you need some heart and you need to play together,” Frost said. “You need to have guys who are going to make plays when the game is on the line. I thought we had some guys step up at very important times and we got a couple plays that made the difference in the game. You need close games because you want to have your kids experience those situations. Sometimes you win and it’s easy. Sometimes you have to battle. Sometimes it’s not as pretty. But a win’s a win. I love how this team kept fighting. I love how they’re playing together right now.”