Replay: UCF Weekend Plans Take a Hit

The UCF football team had big plans for a Friday night in Tulsa.
The Knights had designs of adding a fourth straight American Athletic Conference victory to their resume, in advance of a bye weekend.
One spot outside the Associated Press top 25 list this week, UCF had a goal of regaining a slot in that lineup.
The Knights hoped to win for the first time in Tulsa in a short-lived series that included only four previous games (all Golden Hurricane wins) in this Oklahoma city.
And they planned to make it an enjoyable homecoming of sorts for head coach Josh Heupel who finished a glorious college playing career nearby with the Oklahoma Sooners—and then spent another nine seasons on the Sooner coaching staff.
But none of that came to fruition on a relatively chilly (at least by Orlando standards) Friday night at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
After a first half that featured a trio of big plays that all turned into touchdown drives for the visitors, UCF floundered with three second-half turnovers and a handful of untimely penalties.
The Knights (7-3 overall, 4-2 AAC), who came into the game having scored three more touchdowns than any team in the country in 2019, did not score any of those in the second half, the first time that's happened in a single half since 2016.
And that enabled Tulsa (3-7 overall, 1-5 AAC) to turn the last of those turnovers into a short-field opportunity and a late field goal that gave the Hurricane a 34-31 triumph.
"Relentless and passionate all night long," Heupel said to his team before it all began. "Play for the guy next to you, play for the guys on the sideline. Let's take it one play at a time."
After an exchange of punts, Tulsa was first to chalk the scoreboard—notching first-period Hurricane points for the first time since the third game of the season.
But the Knights answered quickly with a 75-yard TD drive of their own—with the lone third-down challenge of the march producing a 15-yard completion from Dillon Gabriel to Jacob Harris.
UCF flourished offensively in the first half just like the Knights always do—with those quick-hitting big plays.
A 49-yard rainbow from Gabriel to Tre Nixon on first down ended at the Tulsa two. Otis Anderson ran it in and it was 14-7.
The Hurricane responded with a field goal—then it was Adrian Killins bursting 57 yards to the end zone. A signature Knight drive accounted for 75 yards in 47 seconds and it was 21-10—despite a Tulsa lead of 12:38 to 5:31 in time of possession.
The Hurricane cut into that lead with a 35-yard TD pass of its own
But a third big play—this one a Gabriel-to-Gabe Davis connection for 48 yards to the Tulsa two—set the stage for Gabriel's six-yard scoring throw to Anderson with 11 seconds left in the half.
It had not been perfect, yet the Knights had converted on five of eight third downs and rung up nearly 300 total yards. UCF had intentions of adding to the 28-17 halftime lead.
"Let's play for 30 more minutes," instructed Heupel at halftime. "One play at a time.
"Get yourself warmed up and out there and start fast in this third quarter. We've got the ball and let's go down there ready to roll."
Then, on the second UCF series, Gabriel threw his first interception after 115 consecutive throws without one. That turned into a 50-yard Tulsa TD march, including a fourth-and-two conversion from the Knights' 14. Those marked the first third-period points permitted by UCF since the East Carolina game.
UCF's longest possession of the night (4:37) led to a Dylan Barnas field goal—as the Knights' own fourth-down success (on a Darriel Mack Jr. run after Gabriel was sidelined for a play after he took a particularly hard hit) left it at 31-24 in the final minute of the third period.
The final quarter began with a momentum-changing third-down stop by linebacker Eriq Gilyard. But not much went right for the visitors the rest of that period.
On fourth and nine from the UCF 36, backup Tulsa quarterback Seth Boomer (the 2018 starter who had played in only one game in all of 2019 and thrown only five passes) found Sam Crawford Jr. for 19 yards. They hooked up again on the very next play for 17 more and it was 31 apiece with nine minutes to go. Boomer had connected on five of his six throws for 73 yards.
Killins fumbled away the ensuing kickoff—but the Knights received a reprieve when Tulsa's 35-yard field-goal attempt went dead left off the left upright.
Three plays later, Gabriel threw a second interception—and Tulsa had the ball at the UCF 18. On fourth and goal at the six, kicker Jacob Rainey knocked it through this time and the Hurricane pulled ahead 34-31 with five minutes to go.
After starting from their own 19, UCF prospered via one fourth-down success, this one a Gabriel-to-Davis completion for 14 yards. A second fourth-down throw found Harris for 14 yards to the Tulsa  45. But the next fourth down saw a long throw to Davis fall to the turf.
UCF used its three timeouts in short order and even had a chance to regain the ball after a fourth-down stop at the Knights' 44. But a participation penalty enabled Tulsa to keep the ball and end the game.
The visitors managed only 71 yards in the final period. UCF penalties (15 of them) subtracted 120 yards from the Knights' efforts. Subtract UCF's second-half field-goal possession and the Knights in the rest of the third and fourth periods ran 30 plays and produced 79 net yards. UCF managed only 54 yards in the run game after intermission—and the visitors had a hard time mounting a pass rush of their own.
The Hurricane ended its five-game losing streak. The Knights, on the other hand, ended a chance to add to their own win streak and give themselves some added momentum heading into their next assignment 15 days away (at Tulane Nov, 23).
Instead, UCF will spent its open week regrouping.
"Even when it doesn't go great, it's about us together as a team," Heupel said in the visiting team quarters.
"It's real. This game is hard. We weren't good enough tonight in those 60 minutes. It's everybody and we've all got to accept it. It's a fine line to try to be on the right side of it. There were all kinds of things that put us in position where we're not winning a ballgame tonight. That's the reality of it and everybody's got to take ownership of it.
"We are where we are—that's football, that's life.
"And so now we've got to pull together and do it."
UCF now won't have the luxury of enjoying its extra time off in the manner the Knights had planned.
Winning on the road—and winning the turnover battle in those away-from-home contests--has proven more difficult in 2019 than maybe any of the Knights expected.
And so now Heupel and his troops will have to devise their own way to charge on.