Memphis vs. Central Florida

The Sports Xchange

November 28, 2018 at 2:03 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
TV: ABC
SERIES: UCF leads 12-1. UCF won 31-30 in October.
RANKINGS: UCF No. 8

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tigers

–RB Darrell Henderson rushed for 199 yards in the first game with UCF, giving him 308 yards in the last two meetings with the Knights, who held him to 49 in the first meeting in 2017. He has rushed for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, good for second in the national among FBS statistics.

–WR Damonte Coxie had four catches for 86 yards against the Knights in October, but has 21 receptions for 399 yards in the Tigers’ four-game winning streak. He has 63 receptions for 1,062 yards and seven touchdowns for the year.

–Bryce Huff plays the “kat” spot as a hybrid outside linebacker. He has 9.5 sacks among his 18 tackles for loss with 44 tackles overall. He just might be looking to make up for a sub-par performance in the first meeting with UCF when he was in on only two tackles.

Knights

–RB Greg McRae has given UCF’s running game a huge boost recently. With 895 yards for the season, he could go over 1,000 with his fifth triple-digit rushing game of the season. He had only seven carries for 57 yards in the first meeting with Memphis.

–WR Gabriel Davis had a big game against the Tigers last month with six receptions for 128 yards including a 75-yard touchdown reception. It won’t be QB McKenzie Milton throwing to him, but he can still take some of the pressure of redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr.

–DE Titus Davis had 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble among his seven stops in the first meeting with Memphis. He has a team-high 6.0 sacks among his 15.5 tackles for loss for the season.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

A redshirt freshman will have a key role when No.. 8 UCF hosts unranked Memphis Saturday afternoon in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game in Orlando.

Kickoff at Spectrum Stadium is 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. will take over at quarterback for veteran and injured Heisman hopeful McKenzie Milton as the Knights (11-0, 8-0 AAC) go for their 25th consecutive victory, a streak that would rank among the Top 25 runs in college football history.

Milton suffered a serious knee injury early in the second quarter of last week’s regular-season finale against South Florida. Mack took over and was only 5-of-14 passing for 81 yards the rest of the way, but rushed for 51 of UCF’s single-game season-high 390 yards and didn’t have a turnover in the 38-10 victory.

“I thought DJ held himself with great composure and did a great job as far as his decision-making process,” UCF coach Josh Heupel said this week. “He managed the pass game, run game and the clock at the end. He handled every situation he was in really, really well. That’s true of who and what he’s been throughout the course of the season.”

Offensive tackle Wyatt Miller said it’s an opportunity to showcase the talent and depth the Knights possess.

“A lot of teams don’t have two quarterbacks like that who can go back and forth, and both can play ball for real,” Miller said. “So I think it’s a good chance for DJ to show up and show out. So we’re excited about that.”

This will be Mack’s second start. He also started against East Carolina when Milton was out injured. Mack was 12-of-20 passing for 69 yards and rushed for 120 yards in UCF’s 37-10 win, but Memphis presents a much more formidable challenge.

The unranked Tigers (8-4, 5-3 AAC) have won their last four games and are coming off a 52-31 win over Houston that gave them the AAC West title and put them in the title game.

The Knights and Tigers met back on Oct. 13 with the Knights rallying from a 16-point third-quarter deficit with 17 consecutive points for a 31-30 victory. It was the Knights’ 12th consecutive victory in the series after a loss in their first meeting in 1990.

But three of the last four meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less with the Knights going three overtimes to beat the Tigers 62-55 in last year’s AAC title game.

“We’ve competed well against them, but we have also made mistakes late in games that cost us,” Memphis coach Mike Norvell said. “They made plays late in games that helped them to victory.”

With Mack’s injury, the game looks to come down to a possibly more ground-oriented offensive show than would be expected if Milton (266 yards passing per game) were healthy.

For UCF, running back Greg McRae has topped the 100-yard mark rushing in three of his last four games and missed by a yard of making it four of his last five. Running back Adrian Killins Jr. has breakaway capability and can turn a short pass into a long gain. He has averaged nearly 23 yards a catch on 17 receptions with four touchdowns.

For Memphis, Darrell Henderson has rushed for a 1,699 yards with 19 touchdowns this season. He rushed for 199 yards in the first meeting with UCF in Memphis.

Memphis looks to have an advantage at quarterback, where junior Brady White, a transfer from Arizona State, has caught fire. He has averaged over 245 yards a game passing in the Tigers’ four-game winning streak and will have a 1,000-yard receiver, Damonte Coxie, as a target.

“I think they are playing their best football and we are playing our best football,” Norvell said. “That’s what you want in a championship game.”

Forget about what happened in October.

“They’re different. We’re different. The environment is different,” Heupel said. “Let’s go play ball.”