Even without UCF’s star quarterback, USF was unable to snap the Knight’s 23-game — now 24-game — win streak in Friday’s War on I-4.
The Bulls lost their fifth consecutive game of the season 38-10 to their in-state rivals without UCF’s best player on the field.
With 11:17 remaining in the first half, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton, who was at one point a Heisman hopeful, didn’t hop back up after he got tackled.
Instead, he stayed down.
Almost every player from both teams left their bench and surrounded Milton, who was on the ground around the same spot where former-USF quarterback Matt Grothe sustained his own ACL injury in 2009.
Milton was loaded onto the medical cart and gave the announced crowd of 57,626 at Raymond James Stadium a fist-pump signaling he would be okay. He suffered a dislocated knee and was brought to a local hospital where he had to undergo emergency surgery on his leg, reports say.
The conclusion to USF’s regular season was unclimactic to say the least. The Bulls went from an undefeated season to the worst skid of coach Charlie Strong’s career at USF.
“Just overall, we’re not a very good football team,” he said after the loss. “You look at us, we were very fortunate to win the seven games that we won.”
The Bulls opted to let sophomore quarterback Chris Oladokun start against the Knights because, in addition to his shoulder soreness, Blake Barnett was also reportedly battling a lower-body injury.
Brett Kean also played quarterback for the second and third quarters, but neither had incredible stats from the game. Kean threw 8-for-17 for 36 yards. He did have an opportunity early in the third quarter to hit Randall St. Felix for what would have been a wide-open touchdown, but Kean overthrew his receiver.
Oladokun threw 7-for12 and 77 yards on Friday, but he at least threw a touchdown. Oladokun found running back Johnny Ford in the third quarter for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Ford was one of the only players who shined against UCF.
Ford ran for 120 yards and recorded two catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. Ford’s 159 all-purpose yards accounted for more than half of USF’s total offensive production.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulls showed some signs of strength, but wore down as the game went on. Late in the first quarter, redshirt Nick Roberts intercepted a pass by Milton and took it back to the UCF 12-yard line, seemingly putting the Bulls in prime position to score a touchdown. That never happened, however, as the Bulls decided four consecutive plays to run the ball up the middle, resulting in a turnover on downs.
Ford took the blame on those plays.
“It’s not the coaches at all,” Ford said. “You can call a play eight times. If you execute, it’s going to work all eight times.”
Although Ford said the coaches weren’t to blame, some fans thought otherwise. Several play calls were met with “Fire Gilbert” chants from fans. There was even a sign unveiled after the game calling for a new offensive coordinator.
“We have to (re-evaluate),” Strong said. “And we have to look at what we’re doing."