From about the 2nd week of September the entire scope of Central Florida had Black Friday circled on their calendars. It wasn’t because they were ready to go out and splurge on some doorbusters. Fans were excited for what has quickly become one of the best rivalries in the state of Florida. If it weren’t for the Rose Bowl and National Championship game, the War on I4 would have been the unquestioned game of the year in college football. This year looked like it could be a great sequel with a great quarterback match-up. UCF would come in with a Heisman candidate in McKenzie Milton and USF would come in with former Alabama starting quarterback, Blake Barnett. A sold out crowd didn’t get to see much of either man. About an hour prior to gametime it was announced that Barnett wouldn’t suit up with an injury and Chris Oladokun would get the start. Fans only got to see Milton for about a quarter after he went down with an absolutely gruesome leg injury early in the 2nd quarter. That injury took the air out of the crowd and it seemed to impact the offenses as well. Without those quarterbacks the stars of the game were both running backs. Johnny Ford showed why he is one of the best freshman running backs in the country, but he was outshined by Greg McRae.The UCF running back made the Bulls defense look absolutely incompetent on 3 long touchdown runs and averaged over 12 yards per carry in a 38-10 victory that extended the UCF winning streak to 24 games.
The 1st quarter was nothing like what most expected. There were multiple punts and any time either offense got anything going the defense stepped up and stalled the drive. It looked like USF had the ultimate momentum stealer late in the quarter. McKenzie Milton had his receiver fall down and the ball went into the waiting arms of Nick Roberts for an interception. Despite starting the drive at the UCF 12-yard line, the Bulls couldn’t walk away with any points after Jordan Cronkrite was absolutely stonewalled on 4th and 1. After that play it looked like the 1st quarter might actually go scoreless, but Milton was having none of that. He led the Knights on their longest scoring drive of the season and found Gabriel Davis on back to back plays to cap that drive and give the favorites a 7-point lead heading to the 2nd quarter.
To start the 2nd quarter the Bulls had a promising drive going under a different quarterback in Brett Kean. They drove it close to field goal range, but decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the 35 and Cronkrite once again ran into a brick wall and the Bulls turned it back over to Milton and company. On the next drive the rivalry went out the window. Milton was running for a 1st down on 3rd and 7 and was stopped 2 yards short. On the play he was hit high and low at the exact same time and was down on the field as soon as it happened. The Heisman candidate was carted off the field with what looked to be a broken leg. Matthew Wright connected on a 42-yard field goal on the next play to give his team a 10 point lead. The air in Raymond James Stadium just left after that injury. It even seemed to impact USF and their offense remained stagnant. The UCF fans got back on their feet after Greg McRae took off on a 40-yard touchdown run to where he made the entire USF defense look silly. That expanded the lead to 17 for the Knights. Johnny Ford led the Bulls down the field on their best drive of the ball game, but ultimatelty USF had to settle for a 25-yard field goal and went into the locker room down 17-3.
The 3rd quarter featured 2 very stagnant offenses. The Bulls kept Kean in at quarterback to begin the 3rd quarter, but he missed on what would’ve been a game altering play. The junior had Randall St.Felix completely WIDE open but he overthrew what would’ve been a sure touchdown. The USF defense prevented the Knights from getting anything going under Darriel Mack Jr. The drive after that Kean was replaced by Oladokun and that was the spark that the Bulls needed. A 34-yard touchdown pass from Oladokun to Johnny Ford got USF in the endzone for the 1st time in the game and made it a 1-score game. That momentum for the Bulls only lasted a matter of seconds. Greg McRae made the USF defense look even sillier than on his 1st touchdown run and made it a 14 point game heading to the final frame of regulation.
Greg McRae once again the highlight of the 4th quarter. After Charlie Strong made the questionable call to punt the ball away near midfield on 4th and 1 the running back made the coach pay. Mack completed his longest pass of the game to Dredrick Snelson and then McRae took off on another 30-plus yard touchdown run to really put the game out of reach.
This marks the end of the season for the Bulls. They will now await placement in a bowl game after next weekend’s conference championship games. The Bulls could find themselves back here in Tampa in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. That game will be on December 20th at Raymond James Stadium.