Nov 26, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; UCF Knights quarterback John Rhys Plume (10) scrambles with the ball as South Florida Bulls safety Will Jones II (7) defends during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

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No. 22 UCF survives USF after blowing 24-point lead

Backup quarterback Mikey Keene tossed a touchdown pass with 20 seconds left and No. 22 UCF escaped with a 46-39 victory over host South Florida on Saturday night in Tampa, Fla.

The Knights had to rally after squandering a 24-point lead in the third quarter.

UCF earned a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game. The Knights (9-3, 6-2 AAC) will play regular-season winner Tulane in New Orleans next Saturday.

Keene took over in the second half when starter John Rhys Plumlee left the game after apparently aggravating a hamstring injury.

Plumlee rushed for 133 yards and was 9-of-9 passing for 73 yards and a score in the first half in leading UCF to a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter and a 28-7 cushion at the break.

Keene finished 15-of-19 passing for 129 yards and hit Javon Baker with a 41-yard pass to South Florida’s 29-line on the final drive before connecting with Holler on a 14-yard strike for the decisive score. He also had a TD pass to Kobe Hudson.

Byrum Brown was 13-for-20 for 140 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulls (1-11, 0-8 AAC). His 42-yard TD run gave the Bulls a 39-38 lead with 7:02 remaining but his final pass into the end zone as time ran out fell incomplete.

Brian Battie posted his fifth consecutive triple-digit rushing game to tie a school record set by Jordan Cronkrite in 2012. Battie ended up with 144 yards on 19 carries, including a 14-yard touchdown run.

After their early dominance, the Knights had a disastrous third quarter.

The Bulls scored on Brown’s 4-yard run to start the second half, then took advantage of UCF fumbles on consecutive series to add two more scores to outscore the Knights 22-3 in the third quarter.

The Bulls had a scoring opportunity in the first quarter end when Brown’s fumble at UCF’s 4-yard line sailed into the end zone, where Justin Hodges recovered for a touchback.

The Bulls put together a 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by Brown’s 2-yard pass to Sean Atkins with just 40 seconds left in the second quarter before the flood gates opened in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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