ORLANDO, FL – In their first home game of the season vs. a team that has had their number over the years, the 11th-ranked UCF Knights were once again be rocked by the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 34-26.
Very few teams are able to vex the Knights like Tulsa as they have won 8 of last 11 games vs. UCF, dating back to their days in Conference USA. UCF’s last home loss came in Nov. 2016 vs. Tulsa, as the Golden Hurricane snapped UCF’s 21-game home win streak, the second longest in FBS.
And what a way to do it after being down by 18 at 23-5, to outscore one of the nation’s highest-scoring offenses, 29-3.
In what would be a rocking and very loud Bounce House, a crowd of only 5,000 was present at the now former Spectrum Stadium, that should be re-named The Tulsa Bounce House due to their dominance over UCF.
Penalties, unforced mental errors and sloppy play, would best summarize how the Knights played and looked Saturday evening.
Tulsa looked and played confident thanks to using the same defensive blueprint they used last year in sacking UCF QB Dillion Gabriel six times in upsetting the Knights in Tulsa, 34-31, as the Golden Hurricane frustrated Gabriel with all night with tight windows and man coverage all night.
Tulsa was able to generate constant pressure on the southpaw signal-caller from Hawaii in forcing Gabriel to hold the ball longer and making the normally high-octane UCF offense to look out of sync and playing with no kind of rhythm.
For the game, Gabriel completed 28-of-51 passes for 330 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Knights struck first on a 12-yard TD pass to TE Jacob Harris to grab a 7-0 lead. After tackling Golden Hurricane QB Zach Smith in the end zone for a safety extending their lead to 9-0, Knights RB Otis Anderson would extend UCF’s lead to 16-0 lead on a 49-yard gallop.
Smith would finish 17-of-29 for 273 yards, toss three touchdowns and one pick, while RB T.K. Wilkerson gashed the Knights on the ground to the tune of 86 yards on 22 carries and one TD.
Tulsa would get on the board in tackling Anderson in the end zone for a safety and a Zack Long 20-yard field goal to make it 16-5.
After a missed FG by Daniel Obarski at 8:31 2nd quarter, OG Cole Schneider helped UCF extend to a 23-5 lead, after a potential TD run was reversed—and upheld on replay—by Otis Anderson.
Tulsa would respond when Smith connected on a 48-yd TD reception to WR Josh Johnson, cutting the Knights lead to 23-12 with 53 seconds left in the first half.
Perhaps it was due to the bad weather, but both teams combined for five turnovers with Tulsa committing three and the Knights with two.
In what is seeming becoming a worrisome trend for UCF, Knights KR Johnny Richardson fumbled on the opening kickoff return of 57 yards, with Golden Hurricane ST Bryson Powers stripping and recovering the ball five seconds into the second half.
Tulsa would immediately cash in on a 34-yard TD pass from Smith to WR Sam Crawford Jr. making the score 23-19. After a promising drive stalled due to a false start, the Knights would add to their lead at 26-17.
With momentum on their side, Tulsa began to take control of the game in wearing the Knights down with timely runs from Wilkerson and big plays downfield, in scoring the game’s remaining 17 points.
On a potential Tulsa scoring drive, Knights DB Richie Grant suffered a blow to the side of his head on a attempted tackle, and laid on the field motionless, before scoring a play later on a run by Zack.
Tulsa PK Ryan O’Keefe would miss the PAT keeping the Knights in front by one, 26-25.
Thanks to a combination of bad tackling and an offensive line that bullied the Knights, Tulsa slowly extinguished and neutralized UCF’s speed.
A potential big play for UCF was nullified as freshman WR Ja’Cyais Credle was ejected for targeting, as he led with his helmet. Freshman C Matthew Lee would also be flagged multiple times for false starts, killing any sort of momentum.
Yeah, it was that kind of night for the Knights.
The last part of the third quarter proved to be house of horrors as they racked up ten pre-snap penalties. In what was a proverbial meltdown, UCF long slipper, Alex Ward ripped the helmet off of a Golden Hurricane player during a Tulsa kick return, which resulted in another penalty.
Going into the fourth, the Knights committed 14 penalties for 99 yards. For the game, UCF racked up 18 total penalties for 124 yards. After committing 19 in their 51-28 win in Greensville over East Carolina, the Knights have a total of 37 penalties in their last two games.
Tulsa would take their lead of the game at 31-26 on a Keylon Stokes 13-yard TD reception at 12:56 before failing on a two-point conversion. Tulsa would kick a 34-yard field goal to seal the game at 34-26 with 1:30 left.