Successful Spring

ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF football team opened with a nod to the past Saturday night before the 2018 Spring Game presented by DEX Imaging. Then, the Knights focused on continuing to prepare for the future.

Prior to kickoff, new signage on the front of Roth Tower was unveiled, noting the 2017 National Championship, UCF's two New Year's Six bowl wins in the last five years and each of the Knights' five conference titles.

"That was cool," senior linebacker Pat Jasinski said. "I mean, obviously that's something you can be proud of. But like McKenzie (Milton) said, it's in the past now and we're really looking forward to just trying to put some more (numbers) on that Roth Tower."

After the brief pomp and circumstance of those unveilings, it was time for head coach Josh Heupel to coach his 2018 team in the Spring Game. The game marked the 15th and final on-field session for the Knights this spring as they prepare for the upcoming season.

The Knights led the nation in scoring offense in 2017 and their new head coach directed a Missouri offense that was also among the nation's best and was tops in the Southeastern Conference. Many of the Knight fans in attendance were interested to see their team display some offensive firepower.

Milton, who was No. 8 in the Heisman vote last season, didn't disappoint. By the end of the first quarter, he was 9-of-13 for 144 yards and one touchdown. He finished 14-of-21 for 183 yards and two scores, while he was picked off once.

Milton wasn't the only offensive star on the night. Sophomore running back Greg McCrae rushed for a pair of touchdowns, finishing with 57 yards on 15 carries. Freshman Bentavious Thompson rushed 14 times for 79 yards. Sophomore wide receiver/running back Otis Anderson hauled in a game-high five receptions, including a touchdown, while also rushing for 19 yards on three carries. Senior wideout Tristan Payton caught a 43-yard touchdown pass, while sophomore Jaquarius Bargnare led all receivers with 52 yards on four receptions.

"Offensively, our one group stubbed their toe a couple (times), but executed some things really well," Heupel said. "I thought our playmakers, in space when they got the ball in their hands, did a good job of creating some space to make plays."

But it wasn't all offense. Sophomore linebacker Nate Evans led all defenders with 10 tackles, including 2.5 for loss of yardage. Dedrion Bacote-Sweat recorded six tackles, two sacks and a game-high 3.5 tackles-for-loss. Aaron Robinson created the one turnover in the contest, snagging an errant Milton aerial for an interception.

"The defense is made for us to make plays," Evans said. "I don't want to sugarcoat or anything. But I love this defense and I love (defensive coordinator) Coach (Randy) Shannon."

While the Knights weren't divided into two teams, team officials appointed each score to either the Black or Gold. With the game tied at 14-14 and one second remaining on the clock, placekicker Dylan Barnas converted a 31-yard field goal as time expired to account for the game's final tally of 17-14.

The Knights will now turn their focus on the last few weeks of the Spring semester, final exams and off-season conditioning in preparation for preseason camp in July. UCF opens the 2018 season August 30 on the road at UConn.

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