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UCF Golden Knights Using Injury to QB McKenzie Milton as Inspiration Heading into Fiesta Bowl

UCF+QB+McKenzie+Milton+has+the+full+attention+of+the+team+medical+staff+after+severely+injuring+his+knee+in+the+Nov.+23+game+against+South+Florida.+
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UCF Golden Knights Using Injury to QB McKenzie Milton as Inspiration Heading into Fiesta Bowl

UCF QB McKenzie Milton has the full attention of the team medical staff after severely injuring his knee in the Nov. 23 game against South Florida.

UCF QB McKenzie Milton has the full attention of the team medical staff after severely injuring his knee in the Nov. 23 game against South Florida.

UCF QB McKenzie Milton has the full attention of the team medical staff after severely injuring his knee in the Nov. 23 game against South Florida.

UCF QB McKenzie Milton has the full attention of the team medical staff after severely injuring his knee in the Nov. 23 game against South Florida.

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Friday, Nov. 23, college football rivalry week. The University of Central Florida is preparing to battle South Florida at Raymond James Stadium in the War on I-4.

4:15, kickoff time, USF receives the kickoff, but the UCF defense forces a three and out. The ball goes back and forth without a score until UCF star quarterback McKenzie Milton leads his squad down the field and throws for a touchdown with 25 seconds left in the first quarter. Momentum is now on the Knights side.

The next Bulls drive sees them run the ball on a fourth and two. But the UCF defense holds the Bulls’ runner to no gain and takes over possession. Milton again marches his Knights down the field to tack on an extra three points to the score. However, this drive is different. On third and seven, Milton, finding no open receivers, escapes the pocket, but winds up two yards short of the first down. And, he’s on the ground in obvious pain. He slams his hands on his head; his leg is horribly twisted. 57,000-plus fans stand in shocked silence.


While he lay on the ground, in more pain than he has ever experienced, the whole Central Florida squad gathers around and took a knee by his side. This was their star quarterback, their best player, and, most importantly, their leader. The emergency cart is brought out to take Milton to the locker room from where he will be immediately transported to the hospital for emergency surgery on his badly damaged knee.

UCF tailback Greg McCrae later explained his feelings on the issue stating, “It was heartbreaking because McKenzie Milton is a great person. It wasn’t about McKenzie Milton the football player; it’s him as a person.” McCrae then added, “Seeing that happen to him, it was devastating to the whole team, so we all rallied around that and tried to use that as our motivation to play for him, to play for [No.] 10.”

And they did just that. McCrae scored three touchdowns en route to a 38-10 victory over their cross-state rival South Florida. This squad wanted to prove that they belonged in the conversation for the College Football Playoff.

Everyone was on Milton’s side. Tweets came during and after the game. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama starting quarterback who grew up with Milton in Hawaii tweeted: “Prayers out to my brother … shake back 10.”

In a post game interview, Knights Head Coach Josh Heupel explained his feelings on the situation, saying, “It breaks your heart for a kid that’s worked so hard to go out there and compete, loves his brothers and plays for them.”

Unfortunately, the college football playoff committee did not have the same feelings for the squad on the following Tuesday. The committee dropped the Knights one spot to number eight explaining that “the committee does consider injuries that may have affected a team’s performance during the season.” With little evidence that this injury will ruin the winning streak for the squad and playoff hopes, UCF fans were disappointed by this decision.

One week passes and it is Saturday, Dec. 1. Central Florida, with Darriel Mack Jr. ready to line up under center, is preparing for a rematch against the Memphis Tigers in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) championship game at Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, better known as the Bounce House. The fans are showing their support for the injured Milton, wearing leis and holding signs saying “10HANA,” the ten being Milton’s number and “ohana” being the Hawaiian word for family.

The Knights are looking to extend their winning streak to a league-best 25 games. Mack knows that the Knights are going to do this, explaining after the game, “[McKenzie] made terrific plays all year and helped us win a lot of games, so going out there and finishing and winning it for him, it was very big, for not only me but the team,” Everybody knew in the back of their head that we were going to go out there and win for 10.”

But, halftime of the AAC championship game sees the Knights trailing Memphis 38-21. The Knights do what the Knights do when the entire team steps up to make the inspiring comeback effort. The Knights defense hold the Tigers to three total points in the second half, allowing only two rushing yards to running back Darrell Henderson, who had 208 rushing yards in the first half. Even with the great play by the UCF defense, Mack proves to be the MVP of the game. In the second half, he marches his offense to five touchdowns, scoring seven on each of his five drives. After the first quarter, Mack scores every point for the squad, both with his arm and his legs. He finishes the game with 348 passing yards, 59 rushing yards, and six total touchdowns.

Despite the great comeback win and fairytale story of the UCF Knights football squad, the playoff committee kept them at number eight in the final College Football Playoffs rankings. Afterwards, Heupel explained why he felt his squad deserved a spot in the playoff in a post game interview after beating Memphis, saying, “This team has got the heart of a champion. They deserve the chance to go prove it on the field.”

UCF fans and many others were unhappy with the committee’s decision as the Oklahoma Sooners, who got the fourth slot in the playoff has one loss while the Knights finished their season undefeated…again. Georgia, with two losses, Ohio State, with one loss, and Michigan, with two losses, were ranked five through seven respectively ahead of UCF.

However, there are many analysts who agree with the rankings. For most of the season, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit has continued to criticize the Knights explaining that they just don’t play a strong enough schedule to merit a playoff spot.

The Central Florida Knights will have to settle with a New Year’s Six Bowl, specifically the Fiesta Bowl where they will face #11 LSU, looking to complete their second consecutive undefeated season.

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UCF Golden Knights Using Injury to QB McKenzie Milton as Inspiration Heading into Fiesta Bowl