Jacksonville Sports Day

Streak On: UCF’s Mack, Knights Run Past ECU

Photo Courtesy UCF Athletics

GREENVILLE, N.C. – The No. 9/10 Knights didn’t have their starting quarterback. But they had a little bit of everything else in a 37-10 UCF victory over ECU Saturday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

UCF got touchdowns on a trick play, a run by QB Darriel Mack and a defensive score. The Knights’ opportunistic defense, bent but didn’t break and forced five turnovers.

Mack earned his first collegiate start at QB.

The biggest play of the game may have come with 10 minutes remaining in the contest. UCF was clinging to a 23-10 lead. ECU was inside the Knights’ 5-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the UCF 2-yard line, Kyle Gibson blitzed and knocked the ball out of quarterback Holton Ahlers’ hand. Nate Evans scooped it up and went back 94 yards for a score to put the game out of reach.

“I saw my teammate Kyle Gibson get to the quarterback and the ball came out,” Evans said. “We practice turnover drills and scoop-and-score all the time. I just kept running, even though I’m slow. I just wanted to get to the end zone.”

Mack started the game for McKenzie Milton, who missed his first start since the last time UCF played at ECU on Oct. 1, 2016. Mack finished with a career-best 120 rushing yards, including a touchdown. He was 12-of-20 passing for 69 yards.

“Darriel did a fantastic job,” UCF head coach Josh Heupel said. “Managed the game well. Took care of the football the entire night. (He) didn’t really have huge passing numbers as far as yards but was really efficient. I thought he was a great decision-maker. Ran really physical, great pad level, good decision making. I’m really proud of the way he played.”

Mack’s most important pass didn’t go in the stat sheet.

With UCF leading 6-3 in the second quarter, the Knights snuck true freshman quarterback Quadry Jones into the game as a wide receiver. Mack’s backward pass to Jones allowed him to throw the ball. He found a streaking Adrian Killins for the Knights’ first touchdown of the game.

In addition to Mack’s 120-yard rushing game, running back Greg McCrae finished with 99 yards on five carries, including a 74-yard TD jaunt late in the game to put it away. Defensively, the Knights were paced by Gibson, who tallied 12 tackles and had the huge fourth-quarter forced fumble. Evans tallied 10 tackles and a sack to go with his fumble return for a score.

UCF NOTES: UCF extended its win streak to 20 games, which leads the nation, and is a program and American Athletic Conference record…for the third straight game, UCF’s opponent scored first….Nevelle Clarke recorded his first interception of the season and the second of his career….Pat Jasinski forced his first fumble of the season and the second of his career….Matthew Wright connected on a 39-yard field goal, a 41-yarder and a season long 46-yard field goal, the 49th, 50th and 51st of his career, needing just three more to be UCF’s all-time leader in field goals made.

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