EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A week after losing to Temple on a last-second play, UCF made sure it didn’t blow another fourth-quarter lead.
The Knights made fourth-down stops on two late UConn drives and held on to beat the Huskies 24-16 on Saturday.
“We didn’t want that sour taste in our mouth again from last week,” said UCF linebacker Errol Clarke, who finished with nine tackles and a sack. “That’s what I think really pushed us over the top.”
McKenzie Milton threw for a season-high 317 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 29 of 45 passes and the Knights (4-3, 2-1 American) moved over the .500 mark by scoring 17 unanswered points and holding the Huskies (3-5, 1-4) scoreless in the second half.
Arkeel Newsome ran 21 times for 101 yards and Noel Thomas had his fifth straight 100-yard receiving game for UConn, catching nine passes for 165 yards.
But Thomas dropped a pass in the end zone on a third down with just over 3 minutes remaining, and quarterback Bryant Shirreffs came up short on a fourth-down scramble.
The Huskies got the ball back near midfield with just over 2 minutes left and drove to the 21, before the defense stiffened and forced four-straight incompletions.
“I think our players have been through a lot after the past week, after how the last game ended, and I can’t say enough about their character,” said first-year coach Scott Frost.
UConn scored the game’s first 13 points, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run from Newsome.
But the Knights scored at the end of the first half on 19-yard pass from Milton to freshman Jordan Akins and took the lead on the first drive of the second half, when Milton hit running back Adrian Killins over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown. It was the third consecutive drive of more than 70 yards for UCF.
“That was a big deal, it was a big moment,” UConn coach Bob Diaco said ofAkins touchdown. “We let the proverbial rope slip out of our hand a little bit there in the final minute-and-a-half of the half.”
A career-long 50-yard field goal by Matthew Wright early in the fourth quarter pushed the lead to eight points.
The Huskies final points came on a 35-yard Bobby Puyol field goal, one of three he kicked in the first half.
Puyol missed 31-yard field goal in the third quarter, which bounced off the right upright.
UCF: The Knights have apparently found their quarterback in the freshman Milton, who started again over senior Justin Holman. It was Milton’s fourth start this season. His 317 yards passing were the most since Holman threw for 336 yards against Temple in 2014.
UConn: The Huskies have two offensive weapons in Newsome and Thomas and need to find a third. Shirreffs was again the team’s second leading rusher with 49 yards. Alec Bloom was the team’s second-leading receiver. He had two catches for 20 yards.
JUST ANOTHER GAME
A trophy, which Diaco created before last year’s game after dubbing the series the ConnFLiCT, remained on UConn’s bench after the game, unclaimed by the Knights, who have not recognized the rivalry.
“It was just another ballgame for us,” said Milton. “Next week will be another ballgame for us and the week after that.”
UCF: The Knights visit No. 11 Houston next Saturday
UConn: The Huskies travel south to face East Carolina.