The UCF Knights took on the Baylor Bears in their second game of Big 12 football looking to secure their first conference win with a victory over Dave Aranda and the Bears. UCF gave the Bears and Big 12 fans a taste of the bounce house as the Knights had FBC Morgage Stadium rocking against the 2021 champs.
While the Knights held a commanding lead in the second half, Dave Aranda’s squad showed an impressive resolve and rallied back from a 28-7 deficit to steal the win 36-35 on the road. The game started off as a one-sided affair with Gus Malzahn’s squad handling business early, before ultimately collapsing in historic fashion in one of the best comebacks in recent Big 12 history. And with that, here are three thoughts on Baylor’s 36-35 comeback win over UCF.
WHAT A START
UCF came into Saturday’s matchup with more juice than anyone expected and it showed in the first quarter against Baylor. The Knights found the end zone three times in the first quarter with Johnny Richardson, Timmy McClain, and Javon Baker all scoring in the first 15 minutes of regulation.
Richardson was the first Knight to find the end zone on a 79-yard rushing touchdown on the first drive of the game, showcasing his elite speed which has helped UCF become one of the nation’s top rushing attacks. Flash forward another four minutes, and the Knights put up another score on the legs of sophomore quarterback Timmy McClain.
The final score of the first quarter came on a 35-yard bomb to Javon Baker to put the Knights up by 21 points with less than ten minutes played. This UCF team has some serious pop and can run up the score quickly if defensive coordinators don’t adjust.
How do I even begin to describe what I just watched?
The Baylor Bears had no shot at getting back into the game and yet they pulled off the impossible. Dave Aranda’s squad rattled off 29 unanswered points against the Knights to steal the win on the road, in a hostile environment, and get back into the win column for the first time since Week 3.
Baylor’s defense stepped up big down the stretch getting the ball back to Blake Shapen and the offense on each of the last four UCF drives. Freshman cornerback Caden Jenkins was the player of the game for the Bears as he recorded an interception in the third quarter which led to a score, as well as the play of the game when Jenkins recovered a botched snap from RJ Harvey in the fourth quarter and returned it 72 yards to the house to put the game within reach.
Baylor kicker Isaiah Hankins then made the kick of his life on the following drive with one minute to go in the fourth quarter, where he gave his squad a 36-35 lead on a 25-yard field goal that left the stadium in silence.
KNIGHTS NEED PLUMLEE
While Timmy McClain did make a Michael Vick-esque play with less than one minute to go in the game on fourth down to extend what would’ve been a game-winning drive for the Knights, it is painfully obvious that they are hurting without their veteran leader, John Rhys Plumlee.
The collapse shown by the Knights on Saturday was unbelievable to witness as the team let Baylor rally off 29 unanswered points to steal a win on the road.
UCF held a commanding 28-7 lead with three minutes to go in the third quarter and failed to put points on the board in any of their next four drives. Baylor got the football back thanks to some costly mistakes and the overall inability of the Knights to covert on third down.
The Knights bookended two punts with a Timmy McClain interception, and a fumbled snap from RJ Harvey in the Wildcat formation, which quickly took things from bad to worse. While the timetable for Plumlee’s return is still up in the air, the Knights are going to need Plumlee’s veteran game management ability late in the second half of games if the squad hopes to take down the likes of Kansas or Oklahoma in the next two weeks.
This was an absolutely brutal loss for Gus Malzahn, Timmy McClain, and the rest of the UCF Knights, and I will be interested in seeing how they respond against Kansas next week.