Bittersweet crown: UCF captures AAC title in double OT in coach Scott Frost’s finale
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Central Florida needed another shootout to keep its unbeaten season alive. And when it was over the Knights found out their coach won’t be around much longer.
It has been quite a couple of weeks for UCF, but all things considered, the Knights probably could not have gone much better.
In one of the wildest FBS conference championship games ever, the 12th-ranked Knights captured the American Athletic Conference title with a 62-55 victory over No. 16 Memphis in double overtime.
It is the UCF’s third AAC crown in the past five years and comes eight days after it won the East Division with a 49-42 win over South Florida in Orlando.
The crazy game was quite possibly the last at UCF for coach Scott Frost. Less than two hours after it was over, the second-year coach and former Nebraska quarterback was announced as the Cornhuskers’ next coach.
Frost – who inherited a team that was 0-12 in 2015 and has them as the lone remaining unbeaten teams in FBS this season – said during the postgame news conference that he would discuss it with his team first.
“The hard thing about all of this is they should give you time after the season to make decisions and they don’t. These things happen at the wrong time,” Frost said. “The one thing I wasn’t going to do was sacrifice my commitment to this team. I’ve been game planning, coaching and doing the best that I can for these guys and these decisions land on you.
“This place has given me more than I have given this place.”
Soon after Nebraska made it official and welcome the former Cornhuskers quarterback home.
Athletic director Danny White said that there is a possibility that Frost would coach the Knights in their bowl game. Offensive coordinator Troy Walters has been named the interim coach to handle day-to-day matters.
“We have a special opportunity to make the season even more historic,” White said. “We have to figure out how that plays out on game day but Scott’s mind is focused on preparing our team. There’s no one else that can do it and be as competitive as we want to be.”
If this was the end for Frost it was quite a sendoff. The top two scoring teams in the country combined for 117 points – which is a record for an FBS conference championship game – and 1,479 yards. It was tied at 48 at the end of regulation.
UCF had the ball first in the second overtime and scored on a 1-yard run by Otis Anderson. Memphis got as far as the UCF 9 on its possession but Riley Ferguson’s pass on second-and-goal was intercepted by Tre Neal as the Knights (12-0, CFP No. 15) secured a likely spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.
The teams exchanged touchdowns in the first overtime. Memphis got the ball first and scored when Ferguson connected with Anthony Miller from 15 yards. UCF answered on a 2-yard run by Adrian Killins.
The Knights led 48-34 early in the fourth quarter but the Tigers (10-2, CFP No. 20) rallied to tie with 4:13 remaining on Ferguson’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Miller.
Memphis had a chance to win it in regulation but Riley Patterson’s 51-yard field-goal attempt with 28 seconds remaining was wide left.
“Nobody on the sideline was panicking at all. We knew we had to go score quick, and that’s what we did,” Ferguson said.
Memphis: The Tigers rallied from double digits twice- they also tried 17-7 in the first quarter before leading 31-24 at halftime – but their frustrations of playing in Orlando continue. They are winless in six trips here, including twice this year.
“You had so many emotional swings throughout that game,” coach Mike Norvell said. “We had a couple missed opportunities – different things that show up that, when you come down to one score game, it’s tough.”
UCF: The Knights’ final 10 wins came without the benefit of a bye week, which is why they might have struggled on defense the past two weeks. Now they get a chance to rest up before beginning bowl preparations.
“There’s a reason teams aren’t undefeated. People get tired and it’s hard to be your best every week but these guys just keep answering the bell,” Frost said. “They believed even when it wasn’t working. All we did was show them a reason to believe more.”
QUARTERBACKS PUT ON A SHOW
Ferguson and UCF’s McKenzie Milton showed why they are the top two quarterbacks in the conference.
Milton threw for 494 yards (28 of 40), five touchdowns and three interceptions as he was named the game’s most outstanding player. At one point in the first half the sophomore completed 15 straight passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns.
Ferguson was 30 of 42 for 471 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. At one point he had completed 12 straight. Overshadowed in Memphis’ loss was Miller’s performance. The senior had 14 receptions for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
Memphis: The Tigers will likely play in their home stadium in the Liberty Bowl
UCF: Peach Bowl is the likely destination, but who will be coaching the Knights?