Keene Comes Through, Running Backs Thrive, Knights Win

Mikey Keene and the UCF running backs made huge contributions against East Carolina, especially in the clutch.
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ORLANDO - When it matters most. That’s what people remember. For UCF Football, there certainly proved to be more drama than Head Coach Gus Malzahn probably would have preferred, but hey, the Knights came out victorious.

Here’s a closer look at the quarterback and running backs that made it happen for the Knights, as they came up big during the crucial moments of the game.

Keene’s Critical Error, Then Making Amends

With an open receiver down the field, quarterback Mikey Keene threw a really poor pass that was behind the intended wide receiver. Fortunately for the Knights, the result ended up being a 23-yard field goal by East Carolina kicker Owen Daffer instead of a touchdown.

Keene would rally his troops in the fourth quarter, however.

Trailing 16-10 in the fourth quarter, Keene helped lead a drive in which UCF closed the gap to 16-13 with a field goal by kicker Daniel Obarski. Then, after the defense held serve, the Knights marched 64 yards for the game-winning touchdown, which started with a three-yard completion to Ryan O’Keefe and a 16-yard completion to Titus Mokiao-Atimalala. The Knights were rolling, but that changed.

The East Carolina defense forced UCF into a fourth down and eight. Time was running out, but Keene and the UCF offense did not flinch. That’s when Keene created the play of the game.

Scrambling towards his left, he found running back Mark Antony-Richards for a 12-yard gain that moved the chains. From there, Antony-Richards would eventually score the game-winning touchdown during a toss left run that gutted the East Carolina defensive line, providing the Knights with the 20-16 final score.

Keene’s passing statistics: 23 of 35 for 194 yards, no touchdowns, one interception.

Richardson Bursts Free

Running back Johnny Richardson consistently made the first defender miss and gain extra yardage after contact. His second half performance was highlighted by a 38-yard run during the early third quarter, as well as a 49-yard screen pass during the fourth quarter. Here are additional notes about Richardson’s evening:

During his 38-yard run, Richardson was hit at the line of scrimmage, but kept his balance and shot out of the right side of the offensive line on his way for the longest run for the Knights all night.

During Richardson’s twelfth carry of the evening, he rushed four-yards up the middle for a touchdown, helping the Knights to a 10-6 lead.

Bottom line, Richardson proved to be explosive yet again. He ran 16 times for 104 yards and one touchdown, while also catching two passes that added up to 51 yards. Moving to the defense, it was a great overall effort to help contain one of the nation’s best running backs.

Antony-Richards Makes His Mark

For a player that came into the game with four carries for 24 yards, accumulating six carries for 58 yards, plus the game-winning rushing touchdown, should be considered a fantastic evening.

Heck, Mark Antony-Richards flat out burst onto the scene. Hats off to the running back that’s been banged up some this year, but Antony-Richards certainly proved he’s ready to battle based on his performance Saturday night. Here's a highlight reel from last night's game from the UCF Football Twitter handle, with Antony-Richards certainly involved within it.

Oh year, that 12-yard fourth down conversion. It certainly helped the outcome.

This young man proved the net value of perseverance for a college football player. He did not play much during the first four games. That’s fact. He absolutely played his way into the rotation with a stellar fourth quarter performance. That’s also fact.

Impressive UCF Running Back Depth Chart

Even with running back Isaiah Bowser out of the lineup, UCF appears to be trending in the right direction at running back. Richardson and Antony-Richards now lead the way, and do not forget about walk-on turned scholarship running back Trillion Coles either.

He did not have his best night versus East Carolina, but Coles already showed what he could do versus Bethune-Cookman and Louisville, as he combined for 19 carries, 129 yards, and one touchdown from those two contests.

Moving forward, the UCF running back depth chart looks strong.

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