Sports

Back-To-Back: UCF Football Wins AAC Championship

The Knights make history as perfect champions for the second straight season and are headed to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

By Jenna Marina Lee |
December 1, 2018

Confetti and smoke fill the air as team celebrates on football field

The UCF football team repeated as American Athletic Conference champions. (Photo by Nick Leyva '15)

Heroes get remembered. Legends never die.

So long live these UCF Knights.

The UCF football team achieved perfection en route to a championship once again with Saturday’s 56-41 win over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game at Spectrum Stadium.

Football team poses with UCF signs on field

(Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

A Streak To Remember

In addition to repeating as conference champions, UCF extended the nation’s longest active win streak to 25 games, which dates to Aug. 31, 2017.

“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of individuals at any moment in my coaching career than I am of you guys right now.” — UCF head coach Josh Heupel

The accomplishment will now be listed in the NCAA record book among the longest win streaks ever recorded and marks the fourth longest win streak this millennium (Miami, 34 – 2000-03; Florida State, 29 – 2012-14; Alabama, 26 – 2015-16).

“What you guys have done since we got here in January — the way you’ve handled adversity, the change of the staff, the way it’s happened during the course of the season, the way you’ve accepted the things that are different, the way you bought into it, the way you have grown — I couldn’t be more proud of a group of individuals at any moment in my coaching career than I am of you guys right now. I love you, too,” first-year UCF head coach Josh Heupel said in the locker room after the game.

football coach Josh Heupel wearing a white polo shirt and gray hat poses with hand on hip and smiles

Head coach Josh Heupel has led the team to a 12-0 record in his first season at UCF. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Winning for 10

Throughout the year, Heupel and the team have referred to a brotherhood that permeates the program. That brotherhood was on display especially for quarterback McKenzie Milton, who suffered a season-ending injury in the previous game against USF.

Milton was released from the hospital in time for the game, but watched it from home as he continues to recover from surgery. The team vowed to win the game for him. When they did, they FaceTimed him in for the celebration. They paraded his jersey around the field. They held a giant poster of his face in their team photos. They wore leis — just like the 45,176 in attendance from the fans to the security guards, police, Marching Knights, the cheerleaders, Pegasus, Knugget and Knightro.

“He made major plays all year and helped us win a lot of games. Going out there and finishing and winning it for him, it was very big for not only me, but the team,” freshman quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. said.

A UCF player wearing a black championship t shirt and hat holds out his arm to FaceTime McKenzie Milton

Sophomore linebacker Eric Mitchell made sure McKenzie Milton didn’t miss out on the celebration after the win. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

 

Closeup of an arm holding a phone with McKenzie Milton on screen

McKenzie Milton soaks up another championship win. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

 

A white mini horse wears a colorful lei and has the number 10 etched on his torso in black ink

Knugget showed love for quarterback McKenzie Milton on the March to Victory. (Photo by Nick Leyva)

 

UCF fans cheer while wearing colorful leis

The idea to wear leis to the game for McKenzie Milton started as a movement by the fans of Knight Nation. Thanks to Global Promo, the UCF Student Government Association and UCF Athletics, an additional 40,000 leis were handed out at Spectrum Stadium. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

 

backside of white football helmet with a gold 10 and 10HANA written along the bottom

UCF’s helmets were customized with the “10hana” message, a nod to McKenzie Milton’s Hawaiian roots. (Photo courtesy of UCF Athletics)

 

Football players hold #10 Milton black jersey

Sophomore defensive back Brandon Moore was one of my players who proudly held McKenzie Milton’s jersey. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Mack Attack

Memphis and UCF took last year’s championship game to double overtime. Earlier this year in the regular season, their matchup was decided by one point. Saturday’s championship game lived up to the hype, and once again, UCF dug deep to prevail, outscoring the Tigers 35-3 in the second half. The Knights fell behind early and rallied from a 17-point deficit to clinch their fourth American Athletic Conference trophy since joining the league in 2013.

Mack was named the MVP of the championship with 348 passing yards and six total touchdowns, four of which he ran into the end zone himself, which tied a school record for rushing touchdowns in one game.

Darriel Mack hugs his parents while also holding a gray trophy

Darriel Mack Jr. hugs his parents after receiving his MVP trophy. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

 

Darriel Mack wearing a black #8 jersey cheers in end zone with fans behind him in stands

Freshman Darriel Mack Jr. completed 19-of-27 for 348 yards and threw two touchdowns while he also rushed for 59 yards and another four touchdowns. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

“This is just a great group of guys around in the locker room, and when it comes down to it, we all play for each other,” UCF sophomore running back Greg McCrae said. “I kept telling Titus (Davis) on the sideline I was going to give him everything I got. And he said the same thing to me. At the end of the day, we came out, came back and got the victory. So that’s the type of team leaders and players we have on this team.”

Bowl Bound

UCF will be playing in the postseason for the 10th time in program history and going to a New Year’s Six Bowl Game for the second straight season. UCF accepted its invitation on Sunday to play in the 2019 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

The No. 7 Knights will take on No. 11 LSU on Tuesday, Jan,. 1, 2019, at 11 a.m. MT at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Click here to learn more about #UCFiesta, including ticket information.

UCF running back Greg McCrae streaks down field holding #2 sign with his fingers as Memphis players chase him down field

Sophomore running back/wide receiver Otis Anderson helped UCF get back into the game in the third quarter with a 54-yard touchdown reception. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)