Trailing 20-7 heading into the fourth quarter, things certainly seemed bleak for the UCF Knights. Fans were pouring out of Bright House Networks Stadium by the masses, but the ones that did stay were certainly rewarded for their patience. In an instant classic, the Knights beat the Marshall Thundering Herd 21-20 to stay alive in the C-USA divisional race.
With 26 seconds remaining, the Knights found themselves on Marshall's one-yard line, down 20-14. It was first and goal and with no timeouts left, passing seemed like a good idea. Brett Hodges dropped back in the pocket looked left and found Rocky Ross wide open in the corner of the end zone. The two connected to give UCF the 21-20 lead in what shaped up to be one of the most memorable victories in the program's history.
"I called that," said a pleased Knights head coach George O'Leary. "I was worried about running it, not making it and then having to worry about the clock with no timeouts left. It was a good call, they didn't cover him, there was no one on him."
Ross, who has made some timely catches during his UCF career, was relieved that he was able to add one more to his résumé.
"It was coming at me, my eyes were wide open and I was like ‘holy crap'," said Ross. "I sprinted to the pylon because I knew that was the base of the play, Brett made it a nice, little, catchable ball and when your number is called like that, you better catch it."
The Knights' epic comeback began to shape up on fourth and seven from Marshall's 24-yard line with nine minutes left in the game. In what was a do or die situation, Hodges found Ross on a post pattern for a 21-yard first down. Two plays later, Brynn Harvey would score to cut the game to 20-14.
Ross and Hodges both had huge games. Hodges had two touchdown passes and 342 yards through the air and Ross had 76 receiving yards and one score. However, one player on the defensive side of the ball a performance that was a cut above the rest.
Bruce Miller finished with 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks, but his biggest play came when he stripped the ball from Marshall's Brian Anderson on second and short with just over two minutes remaining in the game. That play set up the game-winning drive.
"Somebody just had to make a play and fortunately I was in a position where I could get the ball out, and that is what happened," said Miller.
In the first half of the game it wasn't UCF that was making plays but visiting Marshall. The Thundering Herd's Cody Slate had a 47-yard catch in the second quarter to give the team the ball at UCF's four. Anderson found Slate on the next play to give Marshall an early seven-point lead.
Later in the half, UCF trailed 10-7 and Nick Cattoi was called on to kick a 48-yard field goal, but it was tipped and Marshall's Ashton Hall returned the miss for 68 yards to set up a Marshall field goal to give the Thundering Herd a 17-7 lead at the half.
Following a 21-yard field goal by Cra Ratanamorn, Marshall was shell-shocked by a Knights team that didn't give up and played to the whistle UCF held one of the nation's most dynamic runners, Darius Marshall, to just 80 yards and the Knights ultimately showed the Thundering Herd that it the game was never over until the clock read zero.
"They were up on us and we kept fighting," said defensive tackle Torrell Troup. "Towards the end we fought even harder and came out with the victory. Like coach says, we have to fight for sixty minutes and never give up because you do not know what play is going to change the game."
UCF's second half comeback can be credited to both sides of the ball, as players stepped up when they needed to. More importantly for the Knights, they proved that they had the mental toughness to overcome adversity and make plays when it mattered and because of that they are one step closer to catching up with ECU in the conference standings.
A Knightly Resurrection
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