ORLANDO, Fla. >> Thanks to its quarterback McKenzie Milton, No. 13 UCF is unbeaten and getting better.
That’s what’s most important to coach Josh Heupel right now. Not whether Saturday’s 45-14 rout of Power 5 conference opponent Pittsburgh sent a message to the College Football Playoff selection committee or skeptics who question how good the Knights are because of their schedule.
“We’re 1-0 this week. The outsiders are going to judge it as they may,” Heupel said after Milton threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns to help the defending American Athletic Conference champions extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games.
“Our football team focuses on the daily task at hand. They are continuing to grow together. They are continuing to buy in to what we’re doing,” the coach added. “That’s allowing us to play better in all three phrases. (Pitt) is a football team from one of those other conferences and we handled our business today.”
A week after accounting for six TDs in a lopsided victory over Florida Atlantic, Milton also ran for two scores to give the junior from Mililani High School, seven TDs passing and five rushing in his past two games.
“Obviously it’s a good football team. They didn’t win 16 games in a row coming into this game by accident. It’s hard for anybody to do that,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said.
“The quarterback is an amazing football player. He’s got my vote for the Heisman,” Narduzzi added. “I don’t know how many times we had him back there and he scrambled out and made plays. It’s hard to win football games if you can’t get off the field on third down.”
UCF (4-0) now moves into the heart of its AAC schedule, hoping to go undefeated for the second straight year to play its way into consideration for a spot in the CFP.
“They’ve been undefeated for a year. They haven’t lost a game,” Pitt receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes, who born in the Orlando area and played at nearby Winter Park High School. “That’s a talented team. They get what they deserve.”
Pitt (2-3) has had a knack for stunning teams with national title aspirations in recent seasons, however the Panthers were no match for a Milton-led offense that’s scored at least 30 points in every game during its school- and AAC-record winning streak.
Running back Adrian Killins, Jr., scored on a 71-yard reception, and Milton tossed TD passes of 24 yards to Gabriel Davis, 2 yards to Michael Colubiale and 13 yards to Otis Anderson.
Pitt surprised eventual national champion Clemson on the road two years ago. The Panthers ended a disappointing 2017 season by defeating unbeaten Miami, which at the time had the longest winning streak in the country and was in contention for a CFP berth.
Defense keyed both of those upset victories.
In two victories this year, Pitt allowed an average of 13 points. In losses to Penn State, North Carolina and UCF, the Panthers were outscored 134-45.
“I’m not worried about the points. I’m worried about the losses,” Narduzzi said. “Last week was harder than this week (38-35 loss to North Carolina). We’ve got a tough schedule, so we’re going to have to buckle up and get better.”
The Panthers scored on Maurice French’s 58-yard catch-and-run and Rafael Araujo-Lopes’ 86-yard punt return.
Milton was 18 of 34 passing with no interceptions. Kenny Pickett was 16 of 26 for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Pitt, which was limited to 109 yards rushing.