High drama at the Liberty Bowl and a wild finish highlighted UCF’s victory over Memphis Saturday night. UCF scored a pair of touchdowns in a span of nine seconds, then held on to get out of town with a 24-17 win.
UCF trailed 17-10 and took over at its own 20-yard line with 7:28 remaining in the game. The Knights drove 80 yards in 15 plays and scored to tie the game at 17-17 with 2:05 remaining. On the ensuing kickoff, freshman William Stanback crushed Memphis kick returner Marquis Warford, causing a fumble. The Knights’ Drico Johnson scooped it up at the Tigers’ 12-yard line and scored to put the Knights on top 24-17 with 1:56 left.
But the drama wasn’t over. Memphis then moved all the way down the UCF 6-yard line with less one minute left. But on third-and-goal, the Tigers attempted a halfback pass and Brandon Hayes’ toss into the end zone was intercepted by Terrance Plummer to seal the Knights’ victory.
“The other team out-played us and we were very fortunate to come out with a win,” UCF head coach George O’Leary said. “Things like that don’t usually happen. As I told the team in the locker room, when you keep making the effort and keep playing with effort, good things are going to happen. They happened late for us. I thought that was a great hit by Stanback and obviously a good interception in the end zone.”
Plummer, who made two interceptions in the end zone to save possible touchdowns, gave all the credit to defensive teammate Clayton Geathers for both the huge turnovers.
“All the credit goes to Clayton again,” Plummer said. “Tip drill. I caught the ball and we got the W. I got the turnover to end the game. I’m just thankful we got that W.”
Even the Knights’ game-tying score was interesting. On first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, running back Storm Johnson struggled to reach the end zone and fumbled. The ball squirted into the end zone into the waiting arms of Knight left tackle Chris Martin.
Memphis running back Sam Craft put Memphis up 17-10 on a 13-yard run with 12:59 remaining in the contest. The drive was kept alive by a fake punt where Tiger punter Tom Hornsey ran for 14 yards. The Craft score put Memphis on top 17-10.
After trailing 7-3 at halftime, UCF took the lead 10-7 with 5:48 remaining in the third quarter. The Knights went 91 yards in 12 plays. The drive was keyed by a 32-yard pass from Blake Bortles to Breshad Perriman, which got the Knights out of the shadow of their own goalposts. Freshman running back William Stanback capped the drive with a 1-yard burst to paydirt.
Memphis’ Jake Elliott hit a 49-yard field goal with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter to tie the game up at 10-10. The third quarter ended with the score still knotted at 10-all.
Brandon Hayes put Memphis on top 7-0 early in the first quarter. The Tigers drove 67 yards in seven plays, capped by Hayes’ 16-yard touchdown run. UCF cut its defict to 7-3 on a 26-yard Shawn Moffitt field goal late in the first period. The Knights’ opening score was set up by Jacoby Glenn’s first career interception.
The high-powered UCF offense, which came into the game averaging 450 yards per game, managed just 95 yards in the first half. A Plummer interception in the final minute of the half kept the Knights’ deficit at four points, 7-3, headed into intermission.
“I give all the credit to Clayton (Geathers),” Plummer said of his first pick. “He and (Sean) Maag tipped the ball … I just saw the ball in the air and tried to make a play on the tip drill. I was glad I made the play and got us out of the half.”