AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#14 UCF (62) #20 Memphis Tigers (55) 2OT
Spectrum Stadium – Orlando, FL
12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time1
1. Memphis WR Anthony Miller has a monster day on a big stage
Miller (redshirt senior) had an excellent season in 2017 but the first matchup versus UCF did not go his way. He flipped the script today and to the tune of 14 catches, 195 yards and three scores. Miller punched his ticket to the national stage with this performance as he made plays in a variety of ways and even made plays while banged up in this contest.
Miller is an excellent route runner and he showcased fantastic footwork in this game. He flashed outstanding burst out of his breaks and the UCF defense did not have an answer for him today. He did an excellent job of beating press coverage through physicality and he was excellent with the ball in his hands.
Miller scored on a long touchdown, and while it was a very nice catch and run, it was what he did near the goal line that stood out to me. Miller knew the safety coming over was going to get to him near the goal line, and he knew that if the safety got to him he would likely get pushed out of bounds short of the touchdown. Miller took an aggressive angle toward the oncoming defender and initiated contact several yards in bounds and absorbed that contact, stayed on his feet and barely made it past the pylon.
This shows outstanding instincts and the ability to finish in a big way. Miller also did an excellent job of catching the ball and winning in contested catch situations. He looked the part of a relatively early pick in the upcoming 2018 NFL draft.
2. Memphis QB Riley Ferguson has a great day in the Tigers loss
Ferguson (senior) had played well at times in 2017 but there were times when he was not very accurate with the ball. He was excellent in this area today as he showed plus ball placement throughout the game, delivering the ball on time which allowed his skill position players to make plays.
Ferguson was dangerous throwing the ball down the field as he attacked the seam and the sideline with excellent accuracy in this game. He throws a nice ball but his delivery appears long and that needs a little refinement going forward. Ferguson threw four touchdowns in this game and he did a nice job of keeping the Tigers in the game as UCF came out in the third quarter hot and were up 11 points going into the fourth quarter.
Ferguson did not look fazed in the critical moments in this game and was impressive down the stretch to get this game into overtime. Overall, it was a very nice performance by Ferguson in a big spot and one that has to make people take notice.
3. UCF WR Tre’Quan Smith dominates at the catch point
Smith (junior) is listed at 6’1 and 205 pounds, but if you watched him in today’s game you would likely come away thinking he is much bigger than that. Smith displayed excellent athleticism, but simply put; it seemed like every time he went up for the ball in a contested catch situation he came down with it.
Smith made some enormous plays in this contest as he caught 6 passes for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is the kind of performance that makes one take notice as winning at the catch point is a skill and speaks to the mentality of a player. Not all receivers can win in this way and finding one that does naturally is something that will draw me to taking a long look at his film.
4. UCF QB McKenzie Milton shows great skill for the college game
Milton (sophomore) is short, so let’s get that out of the way. Debating his stature is something we will do at another time. From a passing standpoint, he was fantastic in this game. His ball placement was excellent throughout the game and there were moments where you could see him throwing the ball to the shoulder of the receiver that the defender could not get to, and it gave his receivers multiple opportunities to make plays.
Milton was accurate to multiple levels and showed the ability to throw with anticipation to deliver the ball in the bucket down the field. He has a compact, sidearm delivery with a fast release and the ball comes out in a flash. He was incredibly impressive while throwing the ball in this game but that does not mean he was perfect. He threw two interceptions in the red zone and made some poor choices in the game.
Also, one play stood out as problematic for him and it definitely relates to his height. The Knights ran a slant pass from the Memphis 11-yard line and Milton threw the ball high leading to an interception. Because he throws sidearm and he is short, he could not throw the ball at the right level and he threw the ball high and in front of the receiver which led to the turnover.
Milton is clearly headed for a fantastic college career and he will be a fun player to watch going forward.
5. UCF LB Shaquem Griffin shows he can win in multiple ways
Griffin (senior) flashed excellent lateral agility in this game as he made multiple plays while tracking down the ball carrier in pursuit from behind. Griffin is remarkably explosive and caught the runner even though he had to come all the way across the formation to make the play.
Griffin is listed at 6’1” and 223 pounds and will likely play the WILL linebacker position at the next level and his ability to run will be his biggest asset. Griffin also hustles and plays all out all the time, and that kind of effort led to a fumble recovery early in this game.
Griffin had six tackles and two sacks in the game, and he showed that he can make plays in multiple ways. On one sack, Griffin was double teamed but remained relentless and worked past his blocker to track down Ferguson for a sack, and it showed his relentless nature. Griffin is a solid prospect showcasing excellent athleticism, instincts and playmaking ability.
He plays an outstanding brand of football and will be an exciting prospect for the NFL team that drafts him. I would expect Griffin to be a fairly dominant special teams player and that’s where he can make his mark early in his career.