LUBBOCK, Texas – A difficult season took another frustrating turn Saturday night as UCF stumbled to a 24-23 loss at Texas Tech.
It was a big disappointment for the Knights, who dismantled 15th-ranked Oklahoma State 45-3 a week ago and needed a win in their final two games to be bowl eligible for the eighth straight season.
“Most things went against us today, it’s fair to say,” said coach Gus Malzahn. “It doesn’t matter if that happens. You still have to find a way [to win] and we still had chances at the end.”
UCF (5-6, 2-6 Big 12) built an early 14-0 lead before the Red Raiders (6-5, 5-3 Big 12) stormed back to take the lead in the second half. The Knights had their chances, including scoring a late touchdown in the fourth quarter, but a blocked extra point ended any hope of winning.
UCF’s traffic problems strike again with loss at Texas Tech
Here are three things we learned from UCF’s loss:
UCF’s hopes depend on beating Houston
It’s a do-or-die moment for the Knights, who need a win against the Cougars (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) on Saturday at the Bounce House to reach 6 wins and become bowl eligible.
“It’s very important,” Malzahn said. “We feel bad about the penalties and the missed opportunities, but we still have a good football team. “We’ll find a way to bounce back next week and do everything we can to get that sixth home win and be bowl eligible.”
The last time UCF failed to qualify for a bowl was in 2015, when the Knights finished 0-12.
“We have a lot to play for next week,” fifth-year senior tight end Alec Holler said. “Houston is a good opponent and we have to go out and play well. If we win, we will go to a bowl game and that is very important.”
The game could also be the last for many of the seniors, such as fifth-year senior linebacker Walter Yates III.
“Every time you play in front of the Bounce House, it’s a great atmosphere and experience,” Yates said. “This will be my last home game, so it will be a fun and unforgettable atmosphere.”
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Running the defense condemns the Knights
A week after limiting Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II to just 25 rushing yards, the UCF defense had no answer for Texas Tech’s Tahj Brooks. The senior rushed for a season-high 182 yards in 24 carries.
Brooks becomes the ninth player to rush for over 100 yards in a game against the Knights this season.
“They didn’t run much in the first half and offensively we kept them off the ball,” Malzahn said.
Brooks touched the ball just six times in the first half for 70 yards, but in the second half he made a big difference, particularly in the fourth quarter when he carried the ball 12 times for 64 yards.
Colton Boomer has elite speed
Kickers are known for their legs, but not always for their speed.
Colton Boomer showed it on a fake field goal attempt in the first quarter when the sophomore received a pass from starter Mitch McCarthy and ran 24 yards downfield, converting it on a 4th-and-3 at the Texas Tech 28.
“We waited for the right time, and sure enough, it was the right time,” Malzahn said. “That was a big play in the game at the time.”
Holler added: “It’s amazing when you see something from the other team and think, ‘Oh, we can do something with them.’ It’s very fast and it was a perfect execution. Mitch did a great job returning it.”
Email Matt Murschel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.