Preview: Temple at Central Florida
Heisman Trophy candidate McKenzie Milton’s status is still day-to-day as ninth-ranked Central Florida goes after its 21st straight victory when Temple visits for an American Athletic Conference showdown Thursday night. The junior quarterback, who has accounted for 22 touchdowns this season, missed the 37-10 victory at East Carolina on Oct. 20 and coach Josh Heupel told reporters it will be a game-time decision whether Milton is under center for the Knights.
Freshman Darriel Mack Jr. was outstanding in Milton’s place versus the Pirates, totaling 189 yards of offense with a touchdown, as UCF’s offense still churned out 427 yards and should be primed to show off its weapons against a strong defense. “It’ll be a lot of fun,” Heupel told reporters. “Thursday night, national TV, great opponent, opportunity to come back at home in front of our crowd. It’s been a while. Hopefully we have a packed house.” Temple boasts a three-game winning streak and has matched UCF with a 4-0 record in the American East Division, leaning on a defense that is 22nd nationally in yards per game against (330.5) and fourth in passing yards allowed per contest (147.5). The Owls, who dropped a 45-19 decision to the Knights in Philadelphia last year, have their own injury issues as defensive tackle Freddie Booth-Lloyd (undisclosed) and running back Ryquell Armstead (ankle) will be game-time decision.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: UCF -10.5
ABOUT TEMPLE (5-3, 4-0 AAC): The Owls have scored five touchdowns on defense and that unit is led by junior linebacker Shaun Bradley (team-best 53 tackles, two interceptions) along with senior tackle Michael Dogbe (six sacks). Armstead (626 yards rushing) has missed the last two games and junior Jager Gardner gained 108 yards on 26 carries in his place the past two contests. Sophomore quarterback Anthony Russo has completed 56.5 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns along with 10 interceptions and senior Ventrell Bryant (28 catches, 395 yards in 2018) is his top target with at least one reception in 43 straight games.
ABOUT UCF (7-0, 4-0): The Knights totaled 316 yards on the ground against East Carolina with Mack rushing for a season-best 120 and sophomore Greg McCrae totaling a career-high 99 with a touchdown. If Milton is able to play, that gives the Knights’ talented receiving trio of sophomores Gabriel Davis (33 catches, 493 yards, five TDs) and Tre Nixon (27, 364, three), along with junior Dredrick Snelson (24, 310, two), more of a chance to shine. UCF has forced 18 turnovers this season and ranks third in the nation in turnover margin (plus-1.86), led by sophomore defensive back Richie Grant (team-best 58 tackles, three interceptions).
1. Bryant needs 124 receiving yards to pass Willie Marshall (2,272) for first on Temple’s all-time list.
2. UCF K Matthew Wright owns 51 career field goals and needs two to tie Shawn Moffitt for the school record.
3. The Owls beat then-No. 22 Cincinnati on Oct. 20 and faces No. 17 Houston (7-1), followed by South Florida (7-1), the next two weeks.