When UCF needed a big play on defense, Brandon Moore was there to provide it.
The Knights, undefeated and ranked No. 20 in the country, led Navy 24-21 in Annapolis, but gave the ball back to the Midshipmen near midfield on a McKenzie Milton interception. Navy, with the home crowd behind it, looked primed to take the lead — until Moore delivered a huge hit on third down.
Moore, lined up at corner, read the play beautifully, came in and drilled Navy’s Darryl Bonner right after he received the option pitch. Moore jarred the ball loose from Bonner, too, and hopped on the loose ball to put UCF’s high-powered offense back on the field.
Seven plays later, Otis Anderson sprinted in from 10 yards out for a touchdown to seal the victory and keep the Knights undefeated at 6-0.
UCF, with head coach Scott Frost getting in on the action in practice, was well-prepared for Navy’s option offense. Frost ran the option as a QB at Nebraska in the 90’s, so he was able to get his defense ready for Saturday on the road. Navy did put up 248 yards on 59 attempts, but that’s well below the team’s nation-leading average — 397.5 yards per game.
While containing Navy’s option, UCF’s offense (No. 1 in scoring at 50.6 per game) wasn’t playing at as high a level as it has throughout the year. Navy’s tough defense had a lot to do with that, but the Knights were still able to go into halftime with a 14-7 lead.
The offenses opened up some in the third. First, Navy went to the air and Zach Abey found Malcolm Perry behind the defense for a 75-yard score, tying the score at 14-14. On the first play of UCF’s ensuing possession, Adrian Killins broke off a 79-yard run to put the Knights back in front, 21-14.
It was a lead UCF would not relinquish.
The lead extended to 24-14 entering the fourth, but Navy, even after Abey was knocked out of the game, battled back. With Garret Lewis at quarterback, Navy cut the lead to 24-21 via an Anthony Gargiulo touchdown run. The Milton interception followed, and all of a sudden it seemed like UCF was on the ropes.
But the overlooked UCF defense, Moore specifically, made a big time play and the Knights survived.
At 6-0, including wins over Maryland, Memphis and now Navy, UCF has a serious case to be the best Power Five team in the country. The rest of its schedule is promising, too. The Knights will be big time favorites over Austin Peay, SMU, UConn and Temple before they host the AAC’s other undefeated team, in-state rival USF, on Nov. 24.
The Knights and Bulls could both be undefeated when that game rolls around. The winner would win the AAC East and go to the conference title game where a trip to a New Year’s Six bowl would likely be on the line.
– – – – – – –