Here’s Why UCF Won
We didn’t turn the ball over
For the third time in seven games this season, we did not turn the ball over once. Taking care of the ball has been key in 2017, as we are now ranked second in the nation with only five turnovers. Our turnover margin also plays a factor. We’re fourth in the nation with a 1.71 turnover margin and with 14 takeaways on the season, we’re 14th in all of FBS.
Our defense stepped up when needed
We opportunistic on defense in the second quarter, turning both of our turnovers into touchdowns. Our first takeaway – Pat Jasinski forcing a fumble with 10 minutes to play in the second – immediately led to a score. Shaquem Griffin scooped up the ball and ran it back 20 yards for a touchdown to give us a 31-13 lead.
Later in the frame, when Austin Peay had the ball down just 38-26, Titus Davis stepped up to the plate with his first career interception. Davis return the pick 24 yards to the two-yard line, but a pair of penalties backed us up to the 27-yard line. That’s when the SportsCenter Top 10 play from McKenzie Milton to Dredrick Snelson put us up 45-26 just before the half.
The defense then came to play in the second half. While the offense went out and put up a school record 73 points, the D held the Governors to just seven points in the final 30 minutes of play.
Versatile Mike Hughes did his thing
Coming into Saturday’s contest, junior college transfer Mike Hughes had done a little bit of everything for the Knights in just six games. He ranked second in the nation in passes defended and third in punt returns. He recorded two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. Oh, he also returned a punt for a touchdown.
Well, almost everything. On Saturday, he added kick return for a touchdown to his résumé. Hughes returned a first quarter kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown and now ranks sixth in the nation with an average of 31.3 yards per kick return.
“Mike’s been an unbelievable addition to our football team, and he continues to make plays on defense and special teams. We’re lucky to have him on the team, and he is one of our best players.” – Scott Frost
Big-time receivers made big plays
Tre’Quan Smith finished the night with five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. The score was his team-leading ninth of the season. It ties him with Doug Gabriel, Mike Sims-Walker, Kamar Aiken and Breshad Perriman for the ninth most in a single season in UCF history. The all-time record is 14, set by Bret Cooper in 1992.
Smith’s counterpart on the other side of the field, Dredrick Snelson hauled in five catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns, including the grab in the back of the end zone that made it on last night’s SportsCenter Top 10 plays. Snelson now has career highs of 23 catches, 375 yards and three touchdowns in just six games played.