ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Mike Hughes 95-yard kickoff return with 1:28 remaining was the difference as No. 12 Central Florida completed the first unbeaten regular season in program history with a wild 49-42 victory over No. 19 South Florida on Friday to clinch the American Athletic Conference’s East Division title.
The Knights (11-0, 8-0 AAC, CFP No. 15) will host Memphis in the conference title game on Dec. 2.
Hughes’ touchdown capped a crazy 53-second span where the Knights took an eight-point lead, South Florida tied it and then the Knights took the lead for good.
The Bulls (9-2, 6-2) tied it at 42 when Quinton Flowers connected with Darnel Salomon for an 83-yard touchdown, and then found D’Ernest Johnson for a 2-point play. Flowers finished with 605 yards of total offense.
On the ensuing kickoff, Hughes found an opening on the right side and scored.
South Florida drove to midfield late, but Mitchell Wilcox fumbled and it was recovered by Chequan Burkett.
McKenzie Milton was 29 of 44 for 373 yards and four touchdowns.
UCF led 21-7 late in the first quarter but South Florida took a 34-28 lead with 3:41 remaining in the game on Flowers’ 24-yard touchdown run, which marked the first time this season that the Knights had trailed in the second half.
UCF has scored 30 points or more in every game this season, which is the longest streak in the nation.
Flowers threw for a career-high 503 yards (24 of 45, four touchdowns) and ran for 102. He had 348 yards alone in the first half with five completions of 30 yards or more.
Tryre McCants had already set a USF single-game receiving record with 6 minutes remaining in the first half. The junior had 227 yards on nine receptions, including a 55-yard touchdown. The previous record was 191 yards by Andre Davis in a 2012 game at Nevada. McCants previous career high was 105 yards against SMU last season.
USF: Flowers gets forgotten among college football’s star quarterback, but his career puts him among the most productive ever. He became the sixth player in FBS history with 60-plus passing touchdowns and 40 or more rushing scores.
UCF: The Knights are in the driver’s seat for possibly making a major New Year’s bowl for the second time in five seasons.
USF: The Bulls prepare for a third straight bowl appearance and ninth overall.
UCF: The Knights will try to make it 2-0 against Memphis this season, and then see if Frost remains their coach.
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