Nationals

UCF erases early hole, rallies to beat ECU 40-20

UCF erases early hole, rallies to beat ECU 40-20

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Central Florida entered its Conference USA opener needing a win to slow division mate East Carolina, which was already 2-0 in league play and set to face a favorable schedule against several weaker teams the rest of the season.

Then the Knights fell behind by two touchdowns quickly, before Quincy McDuffie sparked them with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the way to a 40-20 victory Thursday night.

McDuffie also scored on a 64-yard touchdown catch and Knights quarterback Blake Bortles threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Shawn Moffitt kicked four field goals.

``There wasn't anything we ran that got stopped,'' Bortles said. ``Our goal is to put points on the board every possession. We definitely want touchdowns as the end results, but even though some of those ended up with field goals, we still got points on the board.''

UCF (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) scored on eight consecutive possessions to seize control of the game, while its defense tightened and allowed only a field goal after halftime.

The Pirates (3-3, 2-1) led 14-0 early, but lost an opportunity to take control of C-USA's East Division. Quarterback Shane Carden had a rushing score and 76-yard touchdown pass, but threw an interception and was sacked twice.

With senior tailback Reggie Bullock out after sustaining a concussion last week against UTEP, Vintavious Cooper - who had 151 yards in the win over the Miners - had to shoulder the majority rushing duties with only a little relief from Michael Dobson. Cooper finished with 58 yards rushing Thursday, but failed to get into the end zone.

The 40 points allowed by the Pirates were second only to the 48 it allowed in their 48-10 loss to South Carolina Sept. 8.

``"We wanted to start fast and we did have the momentum early, but then some special teams' mishaps and we lost momentum,'' ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. ``Something tough like that happens, you got to play the next play and get the momentum back. We had some opportunities to gain it back, but just didn't do it.''

It was easily UCF's strongest collective effort of the season on offense. It also got a boost from the return of running back Latavius Murray, who played in his first game since suffering a shoulder injury in the season opener Aug. 30.

Meanwhile, ECU came apart on both sides of the ball in the second half, never recovering from an early momentum swing. The loss kept the Pirates from moving to 3-0 for just the third time since 2001.

ECU, which had outscored its previous two league opponents 52-32, was outscored by UCF 20-3 after halftime. The fast-moving, no huddle offense that was successful early, whittled largely because of its lackluster 4 for 14 performance on third down.

McNeill said not stopping UCF was more of a problem.

``Our defense has been getting people off the field all year, but you got to give some credit to UCF. They did a very good job,'' McNeill said.

Early on it looked as if the Pirates were headed for a romp, methodically marching 75 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the night to take a 7-0 lead.

Carden was efficient in the air throughout, going 6 for 7 for 40 yards passing on the drive. ECU also converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield to keep the series alive.

It was the first time this season that the Pirates have scored first in a game. Entering Thursday, UCF's defense had also only allowed seven points all season in the first quarter.

UCF went three and out on its first touch of the night, and ECU's offense needed just one more play to put the Knights in a 14-0 hole, this time via Carden's 76-yard strike down the sideline to Justin Hardy.

The fast-paced scoring continued on the ensuing kickoff, though, when UCF's McDuffie bounced outside and got free for a 99-yard kickoff return to get the Knights back in the game.

The back-to-back scores spanned just 25 seconds.

UCF then tied it a series later on a 4-yard touchdown run by Storm Johnson.

The Knights end a four-game home stand next Saturday when they host Southern Mississippi. The Pirates return home to host Memphis.

UCF coach George O'Leary said he was most proud of how his team responded after a tough home loss to Missouri last week.

``I think we have a team that perseverance-wise, is very resilient,'' O'Leary said. ``You go down 14-0 right away; I think we have a group of good seniors that hung in there.''

---

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/khightower .

Quick Links

Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

matt-adams-hr-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

The Nationals just checked another box.

They have reached an agreement to bring back first baseman Matt Adams, pending a physical, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

It’s unclear if the deal is for strictly one year or a year with an option. Either way, Adams will be part of the 2019 roster once he passes a physical.

Adams flourished last season with the Nationals when he delivered an .842 OPS as a part-time player. He was crucial since Ryan Zimmerman spent the middle of the season on the disabled list.

The Nationals later flipped Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals for “cash considerations”, which made him little more than a waiver claim for St. Louis. The Nationals just saved the remainder he was owed on his contract following the Aug. 21 transaction.

Adams, a quiet professional, fit well in the clubhouse. One on-field tear earned him a T-shirt homage to his nickname: “Big City doing Big City things” that several of his teammates wore pregame.

His role will be the same as last season: insurance for Zimmerman, as well as a power left-handed bat off the bench who will receive the occasional start if Zimmerman is healthy.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

John Wall, Bradley Beal react to Trevor Ariza trade that sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to Suns

John Wall, Bradley Beal react to Trevor Ariza trade that sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to Suns

From the front office's perspective, the timing of the Wizards' trade for Trevor Ariza could not have been better. They secured the player they wanted as early as he could be traded, on Dec. 15.

From the players' perspective, the timing could not have been worse. They had just lost a game to the Brooklyn Nets and were in the locker room when reports began surfacing on social media. Those involved, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, had to address reporters, not knowing where they would be moving to the coming days.

Then, as the trade saga took on new forms, they rode the bus and then on the plane with the Wizards, surrounded by those they would soon call former teammates. Their phones were buzzing with messages from people asking what was going on, when they themselves didn't know.

John Wall has seen plenty over the course of his nine NBA seasons, including Kirk Hinrich getting traded at halftime back in 2011. But he hadn't seen this.

"It was kind of weird and kind of difficult," Wall said. "[We] go into the locker room and we're about to shower and stuff and we don't understand who is about to get traded, who's been traded. It was kind of a tough situation. I give those guys a lot of credit. They handled that stuff like professionals. A lot of guys could have reacted in different ways, which I have seen in the past."

As NBA Twitter did backflips over the absurdity playing out in real time, how the deal was originally supposed to have three teams and it fell through allegedly because of a mixup over which 'Brooks' was getting traded from Memphis, the Wizards were following along, on the bus and with two parties involved sitting nearby. 

"You don't see that a lot. I feel for Kelly and Austin who were put on that trip back here and not knowing what was going on," Bradley Beal said.

Like with most trades, the players offered a mixed reaction with teammates leaving, but help also coming in. They know Ariza well from his days in Washington back in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and believe he will bring defense and three-point shooting, two things the Wizards currently need.

There was a human element of seeing Oubre and Rivers go, though, that both Wall and Beal felt. Oubre, in particular, had become woven into the fabric of the organization over the past three-plus years. He arrived as a first round pick in 2015 and grew up in their system.

"It is kind of devastating for those guys who came in and tried to give it everything they have," Wall said. "Especially K.O., being here four years, watching him develop from his rookie year not getting any minutes and coming into his own and being an X-factor for our team the last couple of years, it's sad to see him go."

Wall continued to say he wishes both players the best with the Phoenix Suns. The Wizards happen to play Phoenix in a week, on Dec. 22 in Washington.

Ultimately, the trade served a reminder to Wall, Beal and others that the Wizards have some urgency to turn things around. They are in the luxury tax with the sixth-highest payroll in the NBA. An 11-18 record after 29 games just isn't good enough to justify the resources being committed.

Wall explained in detail how he believes money was a consideration.

"The only thing I really can think of from my standpoint is that Trevor makes $15 [million], I think. Austin made [$12.65 million] and Kelly makes [$3.21 million] this year," he said.

"It was a situation where we were in a tough bind. We have three guys that are paid pretty high. And then understanding what Kelly is going to receive or ask for this summer, I don't think we have the money to match it. So, I think that's the reason why we made that trade."

This is the third trade the Wizards have made already this season. All three deals have saved them money, but this one has the highest likelihood to make a difference on the court.

The players are optimistic Ariza can prove the missing piece.

"We needed a change," Beal said. "Hopefully this is the change that sparks some energy out of us, some life out of us, that will get us to play the way we know we're capable of playing."

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: