ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Austin Peay coach Will Healy was so impressed with No. 18 UCF that he said something even he knew might be over the top.
“Coach (Scott) Frost probably hates me saying this, but I don’t know how that team shouldn’t be in the conversation for the playoffs,” Healy said UCF ran roughshod over Austin Peay in a 73-33 victory Saturday night.
“Offensively, I don’t know how you stop them. Defensively, they are solid all the way around. They do a phenomenal job in every aspect of the game.”
Frost, whose team is 7-0 for the first time in school history, would have none of it.
Though UCF scored a school-record 73 points, the Knights coach said he didn’t like what he saw.
“I don’t think we played our best game,” Frost said. “You can’t cheat the game of football. Either you’re playing you’re hardest or you’re not. Either you’re prepared or you’re not. We didn’t tackle very well and we made a lot of mistakes. But anytime you can play less than your best and still get a win, that’s an accomplishment.”
Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns and scored another on the ground as UCF reinforced its reputation for having one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
“I thought it was an awesome effort collectively to get all those points up on the scoreboard,” Milton said after UCF scored touchdowns on special teams and defense, as well as getting eight from its offense. “We know we didn’t play our best or play to our standards, but we got a win.”
Milton completed his first 14 passes and finished the game 24 of 26. He scored on a 3-yard run before going to the bench in the middle of the third quarter.
Dredrick Snelson caught five of Milton’s passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Hughes had a 91-yard kickoff return for a score and Shaquem Griffin returned a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown.
Austin Peay (5-3) had some good moments offensively but couldn’t match UCF’s speed and depth. Governors wide receiver Kyran Moore scored on a 91-yard kickoff return and 35-yard touchdown reception while rolling up 346 all-purpose yards.
“That game was more competitive than 40 points, but the reason the final score was what it was, is because (UCF) is that good,” Healy said. “We competed with them for three quarters, but we probably shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times too many and let it get away.”
The game will be remembered as much for its bizarre plays as the final score.
There were two kickoff returns for touchdowns (one each); a fumble return for a touchdown (UCF); a tipped pass for a touchdown (Austin Peay); going four-for-four on fourth-down conversions (two each); a lineman scoring a touchdown after recovering the second of two fumbles on a 5-yard run (Austin Peay); an unsportsmanlike penalty on a head coach (UCF).
And all of that happened in just the first half.
Hughes’ 91-yard kickoff return was matched stride-for-stride by Moore during a wild second quarter when the two teams combined for 50 points. Griffin’s fumble return for a touchdown was part of the action and Taj McGowan scored twice on runs of two and four yards.
Austin Peay had plenty of highlights, too. Governors guard Ryan Rockensuess scored when he fell on teammate Michael Hoover’s fumble in the end zone, after Hoover had scooped up Ahmaad Tanner’s fumble that started the play.
Governors’ wide receiver Trey Pruitt ran on to a tipped pass and got his feet down inbounds to finish off a 12-yard scoring play. Not to be outdone, Moore got credit for a 35-yard touchdown reception when he snatched the ball out of midair after UCF safety Antwan Collier dropped a sure interception.
Austin Peay: The Governors were 41-point underdogs and hung with UCF for much of the first half before running out of steam.
UCF: The final score was lopsided, but UCF will spend a lot of time watching film of missed tackles, poor special teams coverage and penalties. Nonetheless, UCF is the lone unbeaten team in the American Athletic Conference and still a candidate for a major bowl bid.
Austin Peay: At Tennessee Tech next Saturday.
UCF: On the road for an AAC game at SMU next Saturday.
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