All good things must come to an end. UCF’s nation-leading overall win streak was snapped at 25 games at the 2019 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl last season, and on Saturday afternoon the Knights’ nation-leading regular season win streak was snapped at 25 games by Pittsburgh, 35-34.
“Give credit to Pitt. They played a good game and found a way to be plus-one on the scoreboard,” UCF head coach Josh Heupel said. “I’m proud of the way our kids competed and played.”
Ranked 15th in the nation, the UCF football team (3-1) had yet to trail in a game in 2019. That changed early at Heinz Field as the Panthers (2-2) scored first, scored second, and scored third taking a 21-0 early in the second quarter.
“We did some things that you can’t do on the road if you want to be a good football team,” Heupel said. “This one’s going to hurt for a while, but we’ll get back on Monday and get back after it.”
The Knights hadn’t faced such a deficit during their recent winning streaks and had only come back from such a deficit twice in program history, coming back from 21 points to beat Illinois State in 1984 and then doing it again in 2013 at Louisville.
After Adrian Killins Jr. ran in a 11-yard touchdown and Dylan Barnas connected on a career-long 43-yard field goal late in the second quarter, the Knights had that record in their sights.
Following halftime, UCF came out firing on all cylinders, scoring three straight touchdowns to increase its unanswered points total to 31 and take a 31-21 lead less than six minutes into the third quarter.
Freshman Dillon Gabriel led a pair of scoring drives that both ended with a touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis that sandwiched a punt return touchdown for Otis Anderson that give the Knights a healthy 10-point advantage.
That’s when the Knights’ offense stalled and the defense couldn’t quite come up with enough stops.
Pittsburgh scored on a 75-yard touchdown drive with 4:11 to play to cut UCF’s lead to three points, at 31-28.
A failed fourth down conversion mid-way through the fourth quarter was a lost opportunity for UCF to put extra points on the board, and a failed third down conversion on the Pittsburgh 24-yard line forced the Knights to settle for three and take a 34-28 lead late in the fourth quarter.
With time running out, Pittsburgh went 79 yards down the field and finished off the drive with a trick play that ended with Panther quarterback Kenny Pickett catching a three yard pass.
The extra point gave Pitt the 35-34 advantage and the Panthers held on for the win.
It marked UCF’s first regular season loss since the 2016 finale at South Florida. Before Saturday, the Knights had won 28 of their last 29 times out on the field. They’ll now need to regroup and get back to work.