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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

The Best Game I Ever Saw Live: On a whim, I witnessed an instant classic

Best Game
Best Game

Editor's note: this article is part of alligatorSports' "Best Game I Ever..." series. To find the rest of our articles, visit this page.

Not everyone's most incredible sporting event they've witnessed included one of their favorite teams.

For me, it was actually quite the opposite.

Back in November 2017, just a couple of days from college football championship weekend, I surfed the web for fun just to check out what the prices looked like for each game.

The SEC Championship Game between Auburn and Georgia: over $450.

The Big 12 Championship Game between TCU and Oklahoma: over $100.

The Big 10 and ACC title games? It'd cost you a Benjamin to get into either of those matchups.

But then I saw how much tickets were for the AAC Championship between Memphis and UCF in Orlando.

I was a bit surprised that a conference championship game of any kind only cost $20, but then again it was the AAC, and it was at UCF's 45,000-seat tin can of a stadium.

But, at the same time, it was a cheap ticket into a game between two ranked teams; as a football fan in general, what else could you ask for?

So myself and three of my friends all purchased a ticket the day before the game and navigated the hour drive from my parents' house in Auburndale, Florida, to UCF's campus for the early afternoon kickoff.

Mind you, this was when the Knights were undefeated under Scott Frost; my dislike for the team and its obnoxious fan base was only simmering at this point, but I definitely was hoping Memphis would hand the "home" team its first loss of the season.

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Although tickets were cheap, there weren't many empty seats once I got my first panoramic view of the place UCF dubs the "Bounce House".

I thought the name was dumb at first, but I'll admit, the place was packed and the student section was rocking. For a smaller college football stadium, I was surprised at the amount of resounding clamor that echoed around me.

Once we arrived at our seats, the first quarter was nearing its end and UCF already had a 17-7 advantage.

I remember thinking how glad I was the tickets were next to nothing because I figured we'd be heading to the exits early in the second half.

I had no idea how wrong I was about to be.

During the second quarter, the Tigers started imposing their will offensively.

After being down 24-14, Memphis orchestrated a 17-0 run going into halftime leaving the UCF fans in disbelief.

Memphis, the same team that lost 40-13 at Spectrum Stadium to UCF in September, was leading the undefeated Knights at the break.

And honestly, the game was just warming up.

The second half saw an offensive train that neither team's defense could halt.

The Knights outscored Memphis 24-3 to start the second half, giving UCF a comfortable 48-34 lead at the middle portion of the fourth quarter.

The four of us felt confident that it was over at this point, but with how impressive the offense for both squads had been, we decided to stick around.

Thankfully, we made the right decision.

Tigers running back Tony Pollard reeled off a 66-yard touchdown run on the next series to will his team back into the game.

Some timely defense and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Riley Ferguson to Anthony Miller later in the quarter had the Tigers setup to win the game with under a minute to play in regulation.

However, a 51-yard field goal to win a conference championship?

I think everyone watching the game knew what was coming next.

The ball, off the foot of Memphis kicker Riley Patterson, sailed wide left which sent the entire UCF student section into a frenzy.

College kickers, man.

I knew it was probably over then.

The Knights made good on my prediction by fending off the Tigers and winning 62-55 in a double overtime thriller.

Nearly 1,500 total yards and 117 points combined. And both quarterbacks threw for nearly 500 yards EACH.

It was insanity; a spectacle like I'd never seen at a football game on any level.

UCF went on to beat Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, proclaiming itself "national champions' a short time later.

I'll never forget the pandemonium that ensued after UCF intercepted that pass on the last play of the game.

It was a sight to see, and that afternoon is one I'll always remember.

But looking back, the sight of 40,000 heartbroken Knights fans at the end of regulation in what could've been a 51-48 victory for Memphis...

Now, I think that would've been a bit more satisfying.

Follow Evan on Twitter @evanmplepak and contact him at

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