The Central Florida Knights made some key plays at critical times that helped them go on to a 47-29 win over the East Carolina Pirates in their American Conference opener in Greenville, North Carolina. Those plays made a winner of the Knights even though they were dominated in the statistical department.
East Carolina, one of the country’s most prolific offenses in terms of yards gained, was denied touchdowns by the Central Florida defense on multiple occasions.
After a 75-yard pass play from Pirates’ quarterback Gardner Minshew to Quay Johnson brought ECU to within 23-21 near the end of the third quarter. Central Florida responded strongly.
UCF needed only four plays to go 56 yards to restore their lead to 30-21. Dontravious Wilson scored from 14 yards out.
On the ensuing possession, Brendon Hayes picked off Minshew at the four-yard line and waltzed into the end zone to put the Knights back in control of the game. The interception was one of three for UCF during the game.
The defense practiced the “bend-don’t-break” strategy to perfection. Three times they stopped the Pirates on downs, forced six punts and scored a safety.
East Carolina outgained the Knights 518 yards to 370, had 29 first downs to UCF’s 16 and had only 15 yards in penalties to 92 for Central Florida.
While UCF Coach Scott Frost can’t be happy with his team being dominated at the line of scrimmage, he cannot be disappointed with his team’s ability to make key plays and make key stops at the right time.
Quarterback Justin Holman was only 11 for 29 passing with 156 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. The ground game did pile up 214 rushing yards. Wilson ran for two touchdowns while Taj McGowan and Jawon Hamilton each reached the end zone.
The victory was UCF’s first conference victory since December 4, 2014. On that day, they defeated the Pirates 32-30 in Greenville.
They are now 3-2 and host Tulane on Friday night.