ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – UCF will play for the AAC East Division Championship next week. With the Knights’ 35-24 victory over Navy Saturday at Spectrum Stadium, UCF would win the division and ensure a berth in the conference championship with a victory over the Bearcats next week.
As for Saturday’s contest vs. the Midshipmen, adjustments were necessary for the Knights.
Defensively, Navy completely changed its game plan from its previous nine games. UCF went three-and-out against the unexpected defensive look. But by the time the Knights got the ball back, adjustments had been made.
UCF grabbed a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a Greg McCrae 11-yard touchdown run. The Knights extended their advantage to 14-0 late in the first quarter when Taj McGowan plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out.
“Structurally, they were completely different than anything they showed on tape the entire season,” head coach Josh Heupel said. “I thought coaches and players did a great job of adjusting after that first series and finding a way to score some points. The coaches did a great job of finding the angles, finding a way to get a hat on a hat and then offensively, just being able to adjust the guys up front - quarterback too, with some of his checks. (They) just did a phenomenal job of handling the different structures that they were seeing.“
The Knights took a 21-3 advantage into the locker room at halftime. Although UCF would never trail, Navy made things a bit more interesting in the second half.
The Midshipmen scored on their first two possessions of the second half, but the Knights were able to respond with a score of their own to maintain the 18-point advantage they held at the intermission.
Greg McCrae rushed for more than 100 yards for a second straight week. The sophomore toted the ball 17 times for 101 yards and a score. Adrian Killins Jr. rushed for 83 yards on 14 carries, while quarterback McKenzie Milton rushed for 62 yards and a score.
“I mean if they are getting hits for 6, 10, 12 yards, you’ve just got to keep feeding them and we’ve got a stable of them,” Milton said. “I think we have the deepest running back group in the country with AK, Otis, Greg, Taj, Bentavious (Thompson). Those are guys who can play anywhere. Those guys keep making plays. (It) makes my job a lot easier and makes the coaches’ and play callers’ (jobs) a lot easier, too.”
Milton was extremely efficient through the air, despite limited opportunities based on the defense. Navy’s defense led to a run-heavy game plan. But when Milton dropped back to pass, he was very good. The junior signal-caller was 17-of-21 with two touchdowns, both to Dredrick Snelson.
“Really good,” Heupel said when asked to assess Milton. “Really accurate with the football, great decision maker. The ability for him to adjust to something that had not been seen on tape within the course of the ballgame speaks to his understanding and knowledge of football.”
Defensively, the Knights played very well in the first half, limiting Navy to just three points. The Midshipmen were able to get their triple option attack going in the second half a bit, scoring 21 points. But it wasn’t enough to topple the Knights. Navy rushed for 374 yards and did not complete a pass in the contest.
Richie Grant paced UCF on the defensive side of the ball, racking up a career-high 16 tackles. He also forced a fumble, which UCF recovered to extend its streak of consecutive games with a takeaway to 28. Nate Evans recorded double-digit stops for the third time this season with 11, including a sack and two tackles-for-loss.
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