UCF had what looked like a home game turn into a nightmare. The Arkansas State Red Wolves dominated the game from the start and went on to win the 2016 AutoNation Cure Bowl, 31-13.
The game had a comical beginning, with Arkansas state being called on a equipment violation for having two players wearing the #30. But, in what would become routine in this game, the penalty was called off because of a personal foul penalty against the Knights bringing their start to the 11 yard line. UCF was then called for a false start, taking them back to the 6. Next was a missed pass into double coverage and a sack left the Knights punting from the 1 yard line.
Arkansas State blocked the punt and recovered in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Are you seeing where i’m going here? It wasn’t a great night for the Knights. It was a long night for all of the 27,213 fans in attendance.
The good thing was that this game was for a cause: Breast cancer research. The Inaugural AutoNation Care Bowl received $1.2 million in proceeds last year, and that was topped with over $1.5 million this year. The Cure bowl gives more money to its sponsor cause than any other bowl game in the country.
Back to the game. Arkansas State threw passes of 67 and 75 yards to build it’s eventual lead. For much of the game, the Knight’s offense moved backward due to the Red Wolves stout defense (24th in the country) or constant penalties that shot their offense in the foot over and over again.
UCF committed nine penalties, seven of them in the first half, for a total loss of 72 yards. Arkansas State’s front line dominated the game. UCF rushed for inly 11 yards in 30 carries.
The disappointment from Knights fans, who more than out-numbered Arkansas State as the hometown team, became palpable as several started to boo the team in the first half. Some fans even chanted for UCF to reinsert senior quarterback Justin Holman.
With the pressure building, UCF’s rookie quarterback McKenzie Milton pulled out a 34-yard pass to Tre’Quan Smith. It helped set up the team’s first touchdown by senior receiver Taylor Oldham. The 12-yard touchdown reception was a career first for Oldham.
UCF trailed Arkansas State 17-10 at halftime, but Sanders seemed to shut down any hopes of a comeback with a quick 75-yard touchdown pass to open the third quarter.
And with 30 seconds left in third quarter, the Red Wolves extinguished the Knights’ chances when they recovered a muffed punt by Chris Johnson.