The Knights haven’t won two games in a row since the start of the season, but they’ll need to do just that to if they want to finish the season with a shot at a bowl game.
The Knights (4-6, 2-4) watched a thrilling comeback fizzle on the final play as they fell 30-29 to then-No. 25 Southern Miss on Saturday, Nov. 12. The Golden Eagles rose to No. 22 after the win, and the Knights fell deeper into a losing record after coming closer to a fourth-quarter comeback win than they had all season.
The game started as a slow one on offense for both teams, as they struggled to find the end zone after repeatedly reaching within the 30-yard line. To that end, UCF’s defense, despite frequently giving away much of the field, consistently stopped the Eagles outside the end zone, though kicker Danny Hrapmann drilled five field goals on the night after failed drives.
The Knights’ offense also struggled to find the end zone early, only managing three Nick Cattoi field goals in the first three quarters before the Knights caught fire in the fourth and exploded for three touchdowns.
The final touchdown of the night for UCF came when backup quarterback Blake Bortles led an electric 89-yard drive in the final 2:47 that ended in a leaping touchdown catch by receiver J.J. Worton, surrounded by three defenders as time expired.
That’s when a typically cautious Head Coach George O’Leary decided to go for a two-point conversion to win the game rather than attempt a tying extra point and risk an overtime period against the dynamic Eagles offense.
That attempt would fail when a Bortles pass nearly sailed into the outstretched hand of Southern Miss defensive end Jacorius Cotton, who batted it away shy of its intended target, tight end Adam Nissley.
The narrow loss added to a series of heartbreaks the Knights have suffered this season. Five of their six losses this season have been decided by seven or fewer points, including a dumbfounding 26-24 upset at the hands of a then-winless UAB.
For their final two games of the season, the Knights will face two teams who have equal or better records, starting with East Carolina.
Thankfully for the Knights, East Carolina (4-6, 3-3) is also on a two-game losing streak after being blown out by Southern Miss 48-28 on Nov. 5 and edged by UTEP 22-17 on Nov. 12. The Pirates’ weak offense should have trouble against UCF’s defense. East Carolina hasn’t scored more than 38 points in a game this season. The Knights, meanwhile, have allowed less than 17 points on average. That game kicks off in Greenville, N.C., at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19.
In their final and most crucial game of the season, the Knights return home to face UTEP (5-5, 2-4) at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25. The Miners have suffered some very narrow losses this season but edged the Pirates on Nov. 12. The last time the Knights faced the Miners in 2008, they were blown out 58-13.