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UCF beats Memphis in a double-OT thriller to win the AAC as Scott Frost heads to Nebraska

This was one of the games of the year.

NCAA Football: American Athletic Conference Championship-Memphis at Central Florida Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 UCF beat No. 20 Memphis in double-overtime in a thrilling AAC Championship Game on Saturday, 62-55. The Knights moved to 12-0 and clinched a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game, probably the Peach specifically.

Nebraska announced moments after the game that it was hiring away UCF head coach Scott Frost, a native son and alum. Frost is likely to coach UCF’s bowl game.

The decisive play was an interception by the Knights’ Tre Neal.

The teams had traded scores in the first OT, and UCF scored to go up in the second.

The end of regulation was wild.

Memphis had come back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit when the Tigers got the ball at their own 43 with 2:35 to play. On a third-and-14 after a delay of game penalty, a 36-yard Darrell Henderson run gave them a chance to win with a field goal. Freshman kicker Riley Patterson had a 46-yard try blocked, then missed a 51-yarder after Frost’s attempt to ice him with a timeout before the snap gave him another shot.

Memphis intercepted UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton on UCF’s ensuing last-minute drive, but the Knights sacked Memphis’ Riley Ferguson to force overtime.

There were a combined 1,399 yards of offense in the first 60 minutes.

Fourth quarter

The Knights added some separation with a field goal to go up two touchdowns with 10 minutes left.

But Memphis answered, first with a 66-yard touchdown run almost immediately thereafter by Tony Pollard. The Tigers then tied the game on a Riley Ferguson touchdown pass to Anthony Miller. That set up the wild finish.

Third quarter

Memphis had a touchdown lead at halftime. But the Tigers failed on a surprise onside kick attempt to start the third quarter, and UCF tied the game moments later.

Memphis countered with a field goal drive to go back ahead.

UCF then got on a run, though. The Knights scored back-to-back touchdowns on throws from McKenzie Milton to Tre’Quan Smith and Dredrick Snelson.

Second quarter

Memphis scored a quick touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Riley Ferguson to Tony Pollard, cutting into the Knights’ 10-point lead.

UCF responded on the next drive, when Milton threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Smith. It was Milton’s second bomb touchdown pass of the day, after he threw a 48-yarder to Jordan Akins in the first.

Memphis in turn got a 30-yard touchdown run from Darrell Henderson after a fumble recovery in UCF territory, and then pulled ahead for the first time on a 68-yarder from Ferguson to Anthony Miller. This game’s been an offensive firework show.

First quarter

The Knights scored the first 10 points of the game before the teams traded touchdowns to finish the first 15 minutes at 17-7, UCF.

The quarter also included UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who has one hand, wrestling a loose ball away from Memphis.

Pregame stuff and a brief intro

For the UCF Knights and the Memphis Tigers, Saturday’s game is about more than just a conference championship. Whoever wins will end up in a prestigious New Year’s Day bowl.

The Knights and Tigers will battle on championship weekend for the American Athletic Conference crown, broadcast on ABC at noon ET (live stream). The winner will almost certainly be the highest-ranked representative from the Group of 5 conferences in the College Football Playoff rankings and, with that, will earn a spot in the biggest set of bowl games outside the final four.

For UCF, a win would add another chapter to the story of an incredible comeback. The Knights were 0-12 only two seasons ago before hiring Scott Frost to take over as head coach. Frost’s turnaround has been borderline unbelievable — after a 6-6 season last fall, he’s got his rising program out to a 11-0 start in 2017. Getting past Memphis, however, may prove to be the biggest challenge of his season.

Time, TV channel, and streaming info

  • Time: Noon ET
  • Location: Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
  • TV: ABC
  • Streaming: WatchESPN
  • Odds: UCF is favored by 7 points

UCF vs. Memphis News

Now Frost runs a unique, smart offense at undefeated UCF, and it’s worked to the tune of a national-best 48 points per game. Frost is this year’s Tom Herman, the Group of 5 head coach whose recruiting savvy and on-field results make him one of the hottest candidates around for all the biggest jobs.

Huskers fans showed up at a UCF game in Philadelphia to woo him home with signs. New athletic director Bill Moos is on the record as a Frost fan.

Peach (Atlanta): Georgia vs. UCF

Birmingham: Memphis vs. MTSU*

Will McKenzie Milton continue to play above his stature?

Milton is only 5’11, but he plays like a giant. He threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns last week to lead the Knights to a shootout win over South Florida. Earlier in the season, he threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns to torch the Tigers, 40-13. Another big performance will cement his claim as one of the FBS’s top quarterbacks.

UCF vs. Memphis prediction

Two high-powered offenses will clash in Orlando, but UCF has already crushed Memphis once this season, 40-13. Saturday’s game will be closer than that, but the Knights’ perfect season will continue.