Even with UCF playing what essentially amounted to a home game, playing in Camping World Stadium right in its back yard in Orlando, FL, Arkansas State would not be intimidated or stopped. Known for having a tenacious defense coming in, the Red Wolves lived up to that billing all game. Head Coach Blake Anderson unleashed his hungry wolf pack on the UCF Knights and they didn’t stop attacking until four zeros were lined up across the score board.
From the very beginning of the game the Red Wolves seemed hungrier than UCF. On the first drive of the game after 3 unproductive downs UCF went to punt away from its own end zone, only to have that punt blocked and recovered in the end zone for the first score of the game and a 7-0 lead for Arkansas State.
The rest of the first quarter would seem to continue in the same direction for the Knights. After a Cure Bowl record 67 yard pass (more on that later), field goal, fumble recovery and a 12 yard touchdown pass from Justice Henson to Kendall Sanders (more on them later as well) UCF found itself down 17-0 by the end of the first quarter.
UCF would start the second quarter off differently with some strong defensively play led by AAC Defensive Player of the Year Shaqueem Griffin while also scoring a touchdown and hitting a field goal to cut the lead down to 17-10 by halftime. What would come in the beginning of the second half would be a taste of what the Knights would get the rest of the game. After receiving the second half kickoff, the Arkansas State Quarterback and Wide Receiver tandem of Hansen and Sanders would strike again, this time for a new Cure Bowl longest pass record of 75 yards adding another touchdown in the process, making it 24-10 (told you there would be more on both topics).
In the end, Arkansas State executed the game plan they put in place. While speaking to Arkansas States own Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones , he mentioned keeping McKenzie Milton under pressure was part of the plan.
“Coming in we knew he could move around some so we knew we wanted to pressure him and make him uncomfortable. He got loose a few times and we’ll watch film to figure out those mistakes but overall I think we did a good job.” After starting 0-4 on the year, the Red Wolves continued fighting to become bowl eligible and never gave up on themselves. Cure Bowl MVP Kendall Sanders spoke on that after the game, “You know, we never gave up on the year and just kept believing in each other. We kept fighting and it just makes sense that we would end up here at the Cure Bowl, where other people are fighting as well. It just goes to show you that as long as you keep fighting and don’t give up you’ll end up seeing the light at the end of tunnel and that’s what we did.” They came into UCF’s backyard to make a statement to the Knights and the rest of the country…I’d say a dominating performance from the first whistle to the last, from a whole pack of red wolves, did just that.