SMU’s defense looked completely helpless against UCF’s relentless attack | Dallas Morning News

From: Dallas Morning News

Date of Publication: Oct. 6, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. — After playing a close game last year against Central Florida, SMU came to Orlando hoping to pull off a major upset against the No. 12 Knights, owners of the longest winning streak in the nation. Instead, the Mustangs were blown out 48-20 and looked outmatched from the opening kickoff on Saturday night.

Freshman starting quarterback William Brown was replaced by junior Ben Hicks in the second quarter after early struggles. While Hicks had a solid outing, throwing for 153 yards and a touchdown, it wasn’t enough to ignite the Mustangs, who finished with 320 total yards of offense.

“Ben came in, I thought he did some decent things for us, we just gotta play more consistent,” coach Sonny Dykes said.

SMU’s defense almost came away with a huge play on UCF’s first drive. Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton overthrew his receiver on the right side and junior cornerback Robert Hayes Jr. got both of his hands on the ball but couldn’t hold on. Hayes, alone on the right side, likely would have had a pick-six if he had caught the ball.

That play was one of the Knights’ few mistakes. SMU’s defense looked largely helpless as UCF scored touchdowns on its first three drives in building a 21-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“Obviously they’ve got a good football team. I thought they ran the ball well in particular,” Dykes said. “The quarterback played like he’s played most of his career, and they were effective, got off to a really good start early, put some pressure on us.”

The switch to Hicks, who was the starting quarterback earlier this season, had an early impact. On Hicks’ second drive, he found junior wide receiver James Proche for an easy 5-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-10 midway through the second quarter. An interception by Patrick Nelson had given SMU the ball at the Knights’ 9.

Despite that score, the Mustangs’ defense couldn’t hold off the Knights, who tacked on two more field goals in the second quarter. SMU went into halftime trailing 27-10 and had just 112 total yards of offense.

In the second half, SMU’s offense continued to struggle as UCF continued to roll.

After starting inside Knights territory thanks to a solid kickoff return, the Mustangs managed to score midway through the third quarter with their second field goal of the night. While that cut the deficit to 34-13, SMU simply couldn’t generate enough offense to stay afloat.

“We got a week off next week as we start getting ready for Tulane, and we just gotta improve,” Dykes said. “We’re gonna have a chance to get after it here these next 14 days, and we need to play better than we did tonight.”

About Christian Simmons 43 Articles
My name is Christian Simmons, and I recently graduated from the University of Central Florida with my master's degree in integrated business management. My undergrad degree from UCF is in journalism. I'm passionate about sports in all its forms. I've had internships with the Sun Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, NPR affiliate WMFE and CBS affiliate WKMG. I'm also the co-founder and editor of Knight Sports Now, a student publication that has covered UCF sports since 2017. As a freelance reporter, my stories have appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, The New Orleans Advocate, The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La. and the Baltimore Sun, among others.