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UCF makes plays at right time to defeat East Carolina

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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 regarding 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 for 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 win 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.


Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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