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Pittsburgh hands No. 16 Central Florida its first regular season loss since 2016  3 Weeks ago

Source:   USA Today  

For the first time since 2016, Central Florida is on the wrong side of a regular season result. 

The No. 16 Knights (3-1) fell to Pittsburgh (2-2) 35-34 on Saturday on the road, their first loss in the regular season since Nov. 26, 2016 against rival South Florida. They had won 27 consecutive regular season games, spanning two coaching staffs and four starting quarterbacks (McKenzie Milton, Darriel Mack, Brandon Wimbush and Dillon Gabriel). 

Under then-coach Scott Frost, UCF went undefeated in the 2017 regular season and then defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl

Frost and his staff departed for Nebraska, but the winning continued under coach Josh Heupel. The Knights reeled off another undefeated regular season campaign and a second straight American Athletic Conference title before faltering in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 of this year against LSU.

“I just think that we did some things - coaches and players - that you can’t do on the road if you want to beat a good football team,” Heupel said. “This one is going to hurt for a while, but we’ll get back on Monday and get back after it.”

On Saturday the Knights fell behind big, trailing 21-0 in the second quarter following a blocked punt by the Panthers. But UCF roared back with five consecutive scores (four touchdowns and a field goal) to snag a 31-21 lead. 

Pitt was able to respond late, however. After a field goal of its own, the Panthers held UCF out of the end zone on a critical drive, getting the ball back down 34-28 with under five minutes to go. The Panthers drove down the field for the winning touchdown in dramatic fashion, converting on fourth-and-2 with 56 seconds to go via a "Philly Special" type play – made famous by the Eagles in their Super Bowl LII win over the Patriots – that coach Pat Narduzzi referred to as the "Pitt Special" in his postgame interview.

“Kenny claims he has the best hands on the team,” Aaron Mathews, a former high school quarterback who threw the winning touchdown, said with a smile. “He’s one for one.”

It was a play the team installed during preseason camp, Panthers offensive coordinator Mark Whipple said. 

“We were all pumped up about (the call),” Pickett said. “I know Aaron was. I have a touchdown catch before him. He was a little (ticked) off about that. We switched roles for a play.”

The Knights had actually forced the Panthers to the brink earlier in the drive, but an offside on a fourth down play gave Pitt an automatic first down to extend the game-winning drive. 

Gabriel was sacked twice on UCF's final drive, which ended with time running out on a failed hook-and-ladder play.

“Give credit to Pitt,” Heupel said. “They played a good game and found a way to be plus-one on the scoreboard. I’m proud of the way our kids competed and played.”

***

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