Eight days after a dramatic rivalry win over USF, No. 14 UCF won a 62-55 double overtime thriller against No. 20 Memphis, earning the 2017 American Athletic Conference Championship.
Senior quarterback Riley Ferguson struck first for the Tigers (10-2, 7-1 AAC) in overtime, hitting senior Anthony Miller for a 15-yard touchdown. The Knights (12-0, 8-0 AAC) responded with a two-yard touchdown run by sophomore Adrian Killins. On its next drive, UCF scored again, this time on a one-yard run by freshman Otis Anderson. Junior Tre Neal then intercepted Ferguson to clinch the game.
The Knights led 48-34 with less than 10 minutes to go, but failed to hold on to the lead. The Tigers tied the game with 4:13 left in the fourth quarter and later had a chance to win the game. A 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked, but negated by a delay of game penalty prior to the snap. The next attempt went wide left and 30 seconds later, the game went to overtime.
As they have for most of the season, the Knights got out to a fast start, leading 10-0 less than 10 minutes into the game. Sophomore McKenzie Milton opened the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Dredrick Snelson before redshirt junior Matthew Wright added a 31-yard field goal a few minutes later.
But from there, the Tigers came roaring back, eating up the defense with a balanced attack. Senior Riley Ferguson threw for two touchdowns in the first half, while sophomores Patrick Taylor and Darrell Henderson both added scores on the ground. By the end of the first half, Memphis held a 31-24 lead. It was the first halftime deficit of the season for UCF.
But after a first half that included three turnovers and poor defensive play, the next 15 minutes belonged to the Knights. Milton ran for a touchdown to tie the game, then threw two more touchdowns in the third to put the Knights up 45-34.
Milton finished the day 28-of-40 for 494 yards and five touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions, but added 65 yards and a touchdown on the ground. His favorite target, redshirt junior Tre’Quan Smith, finished with six catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Snelson, despite a few mistakes early in the game, had a big hand in the victory. He caught nine passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Redshirt senior Shaquem Griffin shined on the big stage, coming up with two sacks and a fumble recovery on the day.
With the win, UCF earned its fifth conference championship and a New Year’s Six bowl bid. The Knights officially find out their destination on Sunday afternoon.