Saturday's Top 25: Milton shines, No. 11 UCF routs No. 19 Cincinnati
Orlando, Fla. — The college football spotlight isn’t too bright for UCF.
The 11th-ranked Knights feel they are one of the best teams in the country and welcome any opportunity to strut to their stuff on a grand stage.
McKenzie Milton threw for 268 yards and accounted for four touchdowns Saturday night, helping the defending American Athletic Conference champions remain unbeaten and extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 23 games with a 38-13 rout of No. 19 Cincinnati.
They did it in a nationally televised, prime-time matchup that capped a day in which Orlando became the epicenter of college football, with ESPN’s “College GameDay” broadcasting from the UCF campus for the first time and giving the Knights the type of national exposure they’ve craved for much of their winning streak.
“It’s been a long time coming, a game of this magnitude,” Milton said.
“The whole weekend was a great opportunity for us to introduce ourselves,” coach Josh Heupel added. “I think it’s the first chance some people have had to see our university, see the great players we have, the passion of our fans and the atmosphere in our stadium. … I hope they like what they saw.”
Milton passed for three TDs without an interception and scored on a 3-yard run as the Knights (10-0, 7-0) clinched the AAC East Division title and a spot in the league’s championship game for the second straight year.
The junior from Kapolei, Hawaii, rebounded from losing a fumble Cincinnati recovered in the end zone for a touchdown on UCF’s first offensive play to complete 13 of 25 passes, including TDs of 17 yards and 42 yards to Adrian Killins and 36 yards to Tre Nixon.
Malik Clements’ goal-line sack and Kimoni Fitz’s fumble recovery gave the Bearcats (9-2, 5-2) the early lead, but Cincinnati didn’t get in the end zone offensively until Tavion Thomas scored on a 1-yard run nearly six minutes into the fourth quarter.
“That was a tough one,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “The things that we pride ourselves on the entire year, in terms of playing complementary football, didn’t happen tonight. There’s not one finger to point. We have to play well in all three phases, and we didn’t play well enough in any of the three phases tonight.”
The first sign it might not be Cincinnati’s night came when Cole Smith the missed the extra point after Fitz’s TD.
Even though the Bearcats eventually finished with 379 yards total offense to UCF’s 402, the team’s struggles were compounded when Smith missed a 38-yard field goal and then had 41-yarder blocked and returned 53 yards to set up the first of Milton’s two TD passes to Killins.
The Bearcats also wasted an opportunity to trim a 21-6 deficit when UCF’s Titus Davis sacked Desmond Ridder, forcing a fumble after Cincinnati drove inside the Knights 20 in the final minute of the opening half.
“We generated some momentum early in the game and gave it right back to them, whether it was a missed field goal or extra point or something like that,” Fickell said. “When you’re playing the champs, when you’re playing a team as good as they are, you can’t have mishaps like that.”
More Top 25
(At) No. 1 Alabama 50, The Citadel 17: Tua Tagovailoa passed for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but Alabama struggled for 30-plus minutes before putting away The Citadel.
The Crimson Tide (11-0) went into halftime tied at 10 with the FCS Bulldogs (4-6). Alabama scored two touchdowns in a 12-second span on its way to a 27-point third quarter.
Tagovailoa completed 18 of 22 passes in three quarters, including touchdown strikes of 21 and 5 yards to Jaylen Waddle and a 68-yarder to tight end Irv Smith Jr. Tagovailoa broke AJ McCarron’s school single-season record of 30 touchdown passes, reaching 31.
(At) No. 2 Clemson 35, Duke 6: Trevor Lawrence was 21 for 38 for 251 yards and two touchdowns and No. 2 Clemson overcame a slow start to beat Duke to finish a perfect Atlantic Coast Conference season.
Clemson (11-0, 8-0) fell behind 6-0 early. Lawrence was 0 for 7 on third downs in the first half and the Travis Etienne ran for just 4 yards as the Tigers led 14-6 at the break.
But Etienne ran for 77 yards on four carries in the second half with touchdowns runs of 27 and 29 yards, and Lawrence broke it open with a 10-yard TD pass to T.J. Chase early in the fourth quarter —his final play in another Clemson blowout. Daniel Jones was 24 of 43 for 158 yards for Duke (7-4, 3-4).
(At) No. 5 Georgia 66, UMass 27: Freshman Justin Fields threw two scoring passes and ran for another touchdown, Tyler Simmons had rushing and receiving scores, and Georgia protected its playoff hopes.
Another freshman, James Cook ran for 76 yards on only three carries, including his first two career scoring runs, from 26 and 27 yards. Georgia gained 701 yards, including 426 yards on the ground, and never punted. Fields led the Bulldogs with 100 yards rushing, including a career-long run of 47 yards and a 3-yard scoring run. He completed 5 of 8 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia (10-1) leaned on its quick-strike offense on six scoring drives lasting no more than four plays. Starter Jake Fromm and Fields shared time at quarterback as the Bulldogs avoided looking ahead to next week’s state rivalry game against Georgia Tech or the Dec. 1 Southeastern Conference championship game against No. 1 Alabama. The Bulldogs led UMass (4-8) 42-13 at halftime.
(At) No. 6 Oklahoma 55, Kansas 40: Kyler Murray accounted for two of his five touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help Oklahoma survive Kansas freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr.’s big game.
Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, No. 6 CFP) moved closer to a spot in the conference championship game, and Murray boosted his Heisman Trophy campaign in likely his final home game.
Williams rushed for a career-high 252 yards and two touchdowns and threw for a score for Kansas (3-8, 1-7). The Jayhawks have lost seven of the past eight games.
Murray sealed the game with a breakaway 75-yard touchdown run with 13:44 remaining, sparking a 20-point fourth quarter. He added another touchdown in the quarter and finished with 272 yards passing and two touchdowns. He rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns.
(At) Oklahoma State 45, No. 7 West Virginia 41: Taylor Cornelius threw a touchdown pass to Tylan Wallace with 42 seconds remaining to rally Oklahoma State.
Will Grier led West Virginia (8-2, 6-2, No. 9 CFP) to the Oklahoma State 14, but couldn’t connect with David Sills V on the final play. The loss all but ended West Virginia’s shot at the College Football Playoff. West Virginia faces Oklahoma next Friday and still has a shot at reaching the Big 12 title game.
Cornelius passed for 338 yards and ran for 106 to help Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-5) become bowl eligible.
(At) No. 10 LSU 42, Rice 10: Joe Burrow passed for a career-high 307 yards and two touchdowns in less than three quarters for LSU.
The Tigers (9-2, No. 7 CFP) led 35-3 midway through the third quarter en route to a victory in which the only drama involved whether LSU would cover a point spread hovering around 44 points before kickoff.
Nick Brossette rushed for two touchdowns for LSU, which can clinch its first 10-win season under coach Ed Orgeron —and virtually ensure a New Year’s Day bowl bid —by winning its regular-season finale next weekend at Texas A&M.
LSU outgained Rice (1-11) 552 yards to 198. The Owls have lost 11 straight.
(At) No. 13 Texas 24, No. 18 Iowa State 10: Sam Ehlinger ran for a touchdown and passed for another before leaving with a shoulder injury, and Texas smothered Iowa State freshman quarterback Brock Purdy.
Texas (8-3, 6-2, No. 15 CFP) is in second place in the Big 12 and on track to play in the league title game if it wins at Kansas next week. Texas hasn’t won the Big 12 since 2009.
Texas had given up 114 points and 1,675 yards in its previous three games. The Longhorns allowed Iowa State just 224 total yards.
Shane Buechele took over for Ehlinger after halftime and his 27-yard touchdown pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey with 36 seconds left in the third quarter put the game out of reach.
The No. 18 Cyclones (6-4, 5-3, No. 16 CFP) played the first half without running back David Montgomery, who was suspended for throwing a punch against Baylor a week earlier.
No. 14 Utah State 29, (at) Colorado State 24: Collin Hill’s apparent 34-yard touchdown pass to Preston Williams with no time left was negated by penalty, giving Utah State the victory in a wild and stunning finish to a game played in snow and freezing rain.
Colorado State was flagged for illegal touching after it was determined Williams had stepped out of bounds and was the first to touch the ball when he came back in bounds and made the leaping catch between two defenders in the end zone.
Jordan Love threw a go-ahead 33-yard touchdown pass to Aaren Vaughns with 43 seconds remaining, the first offensive touchdown of the day for the Aggies (10-1, 7-0 Mountain West). That score came on the heels of Hill’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Williams with 1:36 remaining for the Rams (3-8, 2-5).
(At) No. 15 Florida 63, Idaho 10: Feleipe Franks passed for 274 yards and three touchdowns —all in the first half —and Florida ran up 600 total yards.
Florida (8-3) rolled to a 49-0 lead at halftime. Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown on the first play to start the onslaught. Four other touchdown drives took less than two minutes and the longest of the seven first-half scores came in 2:24.
Idaho dropped to 4-7.
(At) No. 17 Washington 42, Oregon State 23: Jake Browning threw three touchdown passes and Myles Gaskin rushed for 135 yards in the final home game of their careers, and Washington scored 28 first-quarter points.
The victory by the Huskies (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) sets up a winner-take-all matchup with No. 8 Washington State in the Apple Cup next Friday for the Pac-12 North Division title. The winner of the 111th matchup will play in the conference title game with a Rose Bowl berth at stake.
The Huskies dominated Oregon State (2-9, 1-7) early then coasted the final three quarters. After getting a week off, Washington jumped to a 28-3 lead on the strength of two short TD runs by Salvon Ahmed and a pair touchdown passes by Browning. He hit Aaron Fuller with a 17-yarder after Oregon State fumbled a kickoff, and connected with tight end Cade Otton on a 21-yard TD strike.
Browning finished 17-of-23 for 242 yards and a 205.3 passer rating.
(At) No. 20 Kentucky 34, Middle Tennessee 23: Mike Edwards had two takeaways leading to Kentucky’s first two touchdowns, and the Wildcats made several fourth-quarter defensive stops.
Kentucky (8-3) ended a two-game slide. Josh Allen sacked Brent Stockstill for a 7-yard loss on fourth down and set up Miles Butler’s 32-yard field goal with 4:01 remaining.
A facemask penalty helped the Blue Raiders (7-4) reach the Kentucky 5 in the final minute, but consecutive sacks of Stockstill by Allen and Jamar Watson ended that final chance.
No. 21 Utah 30, (at) Colorado 7: Jason Shelley threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns in the snow, and Utah moved closer to its first Pac-12 title game appearance.
The Utes (8-3, 6-3) will win the Pac-12 South if Arizona State loses at Oregon later Saturday or if the Sun Devils fall to Arizona next week.
A sixth consecutive loss for the Buffaloes (5-6, 2-6) capped a week in which athletic director Rick George said he hadn’t made any decisions regarding coach Mike MacIntyre’s employment amid a news report that his job was in jeopardy.
(At) Florida State 22, No. 22 Boston College 21: Deondre Francois threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Tamorrion Terry with 1:49 left and Florida State beat Boston College to keep its bowl hopes alive.
Francois was 19-of-39 for 322 yards, shaking off two first-half interceptions for his fourth 300-yard game of the season. Cam Akers had 19 carries for 110 yards for the Seminoles (5-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference). It was Florida State’s first victory in six attempts against Top 25 teams this season.
Boston College (7-4, 4-3) hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 2008. A.J. Dillon ran a season-high 37 times for 116 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles.
(At) No. 25 Mississippi State 52, Arkansas 6: Nick Fitzgerald threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead Mississippi State.
Mississippi State (7-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference, No. 21 CFP) held Arkansas (2-9, 0-7) to 219 total yards.
In his final home game, Fitzgerald completed 9 of 14 passes for 127 yards and also ran for 85 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown. Senior Aeris Williams, who was starting in place of the injured Kylin Hill, added 104 yards rushing on 15 carries.