(Tampa, FL) The USF Bulls regular season came to a merciful close Saturday afternoon with a 38-10 loss to cross-state rival UCF at Raymond James Stadium. After winning their first seven games, the Bulls dropped five in a row to end the 2018 campaign on a sour note.
While UCF kept its 24-game winning streak alive, it came a tremendous cost when quarterback McKenzie Milton left the game early in the second quarter with a gruesome leg injury that required emergency surgery at nearby Tampa General Hospital. Reports are as of Sunday November 25, that the surgery was successful, but no further details have been released on his status.
The lone bright spot for USF was Freshman Johnny Ford rushing for 120 yards and 34-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter. Ford averaged 7.5 yards on 16 carries in his third 100-yard rushing game of the season. His first career touchdown reception came on a pass by sophomore starter Chris Oladokun with 1:15 left in the third quarter before UCF responded with 21 straight points.
USF (7-5, 3-5 in AAC) saw its War on I-4 series lead trimmed to 6-4 as UCF (11-0, 8-0 in AAC) claimed its second straight win in the series.
Starting for the second time in place of injured Blake Barnett, Oladokun completed seven of 12 passes for 77 yards and opened the game’s first drive with a 22-yard run. Junior Brett Kean also saw action, completing eight of 17 attempts for 36 yards.
Defensively, USF stayed within striking distance most of the way by forcing six punts, including four in the second half. Linebacker Khalid McGee made a game-high 13 tackles, becoming the 15th player in program history to record 100 stops in a season, after he and 17 other seniors were honored in their final regular season game at Raymond James Stadium.
The 10th War on I-4 clash started with teams trading punts and takeaways on defense, including a 30-yard interception return by Nick Roberts down to the UCF 12. After the Bulls couldn’t convert on fourth-and-1 from the UCF 3, the Knights drove 97 yards and took a 7-0 lead with 25 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
UCF extended its advantage to 10-0 four minutes into the second quarter, one play after star quarterback McKenzie Milton was carted off the field with a devastating leg injury that caused both teams to surround him with support.
Trailing 17-0, USF chipped away at its deficit with a 25-yard field goal by Coby Weiss with 3:09 remaining in the half. Ford rushed three times for 67 yards on the 70-yard scoring drive and his 38-yard run set the Bulls up at the UCF 13. Ford finished the first half with 76 yards on seven attempts (10.9 ypc).
Friday’s second half opened with five straight punts before Oladokun found Ford over the middle for a 34-yard touchdown with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
UCF responded with a touchdown on the next drive and capped off the scoring with 14 more points in the fourth quarter.
Announced attendance was 57,626 for the 10th playing of the War on I-4 marked the second-largest crowd in the game’s history.
Prior to kickoff, USF honored 18 seniors: WR Ryeshene Bronson, WR LaDarion McBride, OL Eric Mayes, WR Tyre McCants, TE Riley Sheehan, RB Davion Sutton, K Jake Vivonetto, DB Chris Barr, DT Kevin Bronson, DE Josh Black, DE Juwuan Brown, LB Jeffery Farrar, DE Derek Hintze, DB Ronnie Hoggins, DE Vincent Jackson, LB Khalid McGee, S Jaymon Thomas and DB Mazzi Wilkins.
Despite the loss, USF’s 7 wins qualifies them for a bowl bid which will be awarded December 1.
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