Caught by the Cougars

HOUSTON ( - It was a tale of two halves Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium. UCF forced three turnovers in the first half en route to a 21-3 halftime lead, but four Knights turnovers led to a 28-point second half for Houston. The Cougars came back to defeat the Knights, 31-24.

"The team played great in the first half," UCF head coach Scott Frost said. "They came out ready to go. In fairness, we got a lot of breaks in the first half. Houston made all the mistakes in the first half. We have to be smarter. We had four turnovers (in the second half). When you've got a team like that down, you can't do those things."

Early in the second half, it looked like more of the same from the first two periods. The Knights forced a fumble deep in Houston territory on the first possession of the third quarter and had a chance to score on the play, but were unable to scoop the ball up. UCF converted that miscue into a field goal.

From there, it was all Houston. The Cougars got two touchdown runs and a TD pass from quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. to lead the comeback.

UCF was clinging to a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But a Knights defense that was on the field for nearly 18 minutes in the second half - 9:12 in the third quarter alone - wore down a bit. The Cougars' Duke Catalon scored early in the fourth quarter after a McKenzie Milton fumble to tie it at 24-24. Ward capped a 59-yard march on the next possession to put Houston on top for the first time, 31-24, with 7:27 left.

The Knights moved inside the Houston 35-yard line, but the drive stalled and Houston was able to run out the clock to take the victory.

An opportunistic Knights defense forced three first-half turnovers. The Cougars also committed four personal fouls. Those two factors led to the Knights holding a 21-3 advantage at the intermission.

D.J. Killings snared the first of his two interceptions to end Houston's first possession. Seven plays and 54 yards later, Adrian Killins took a late option pitch from McKenzie Milton for a six-yard touchdown run, putting the Knights on top, 7-0.

Houston tallied its field goal after an impressive 19-play drive. Perhaps more impressive, the Knights defense was on the field for 19 plays and held the Cougars out of the end zone.

Later in the second quarter, a pair of Houston personal fouls - one on a missed UCF field goal attempt - kept the Knights' drive alive. Eventually, Dontravious Wilson scored from one yard out to make it 14-3.

With just less than two minutes remaining in the half, Killings grabbed his second pick and returned it to the Houston 47. A late hit out of bounds on 3rd-and-10 extended UCF's drive. One play later, Jawon Hamilton scooted 28 yards for a touchdown to make it, 21-3.

Griffin's Big Game

  • Junior outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin continues to shine. The junior recorded a career-high and game-high 14 tackles, including 12 solo stops.
  • Griffin, who is ranked 19th nationally in sacks per game, added 2.5 more vs. the Cougars.
  • Griffin, who has only one hand due to a birth defect, also snared his first collegiate interception and recovered a fumble Saturday.
  • Following the game, Griffin spent time meeting one of his admirers, Julianna Linton, an 11-year old competitive cheerleader that received a bionic arm from Limbitless Solutions back in March. Read more about her story here.

Smith's Snares

  • Sophomore wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith had a big day. His 12 catches and 137 yards receiving were both career-best marks.
  • It was Smith's sixth 100-yard game of his career and his third this season.

D.J. Doing Well

  • Senior defensive back D.J. Killings grabbed two interceptions in the first half. He joins a group of numerous Knights to achieve that feat, tying a school record.
  • The last time a Knight had two picks in a game was Oct. 5, 2013 when Terrance Plummer had two takeaways at Memphis.