Dec 22, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; UCF Knights quarterback John Rhys Plumlee (10) runs the ball around Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back Clayton Powell-Lee (5) during the first half of the Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gasparilla Bowl: Haynes King helps Georgia Tech knock off UCF

Haynes King threw for a touchdown and rushed for another to lift Georgia Tech to a 30-17 victory over UCF on Friday in the Gasparilla Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Jamal Haynes rushed for a career-high 128 yards and King added 89 for the Yellow Jackets (7-6), who rolled up for 284 yards on the ground. Dontae Smith also rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown as Georgia Tech overcame an early 14-point deficit en route to recording its fourth win in six outings.

Aidan Birr drilled field goals of 36, 29 and 38 yards for the Yellow Jackets.

UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee completed 16 of 29 passes for 198 yards and tossed a scoring strike to both Javon Baker and Kobe Hudson. Baker had nine catches for 173 yards and RJ Harvey rushed for 120 yards for the Knights (6-7), who have lost seven of their last 10 games.

UCF bolted out of the blocks as Plumlee connected on a pair of touchdown passes to give his team an early 14-0 lead. Baker reeled in a 23-yard pass from Plumlee to cap the opening drive and Hudson added a 17-yard reception to complete a 10-play, 98-yard drive with 6:26 remaining in the first quarter.

The teams traded field goals before King ignited a pair of scoring drives to allow Georgia Tech to forge a 17-17 tie at halftime. King scored from 5 yards out with 4:23 to play in the second quarter for his 10th rushing touchdown of the season. He then connected on an inside post with Malik Rutherford, who gained a step on two defenders and reeled in a 41-yard touchdown pass.

Birr drilled a 29-yard field goal to give the Yellow Jackets their first lead of the contest at 20-17 with 12:07 remaining in the third quarter.

Georgia Tech relied on its ground attack on its next scoring drive. The Yellow Jackets ran the ball on 12 of 13 plays, capped by Smith’s 1-yard touchdown to take a 27-17 lead with 13:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Birr made his third field goal with 4:52 to play in the fourth quarter and UCF turned the ball over on downs on its ensuing possession and tossed an interception on its final offensive play.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Boise, Idaho, USA; UCF Knights quarterback John Rhys Plumlee (10) during the second half of play versus the Boise State Broncos at Albertsons Stadium. UCF beats Boise State 18-16. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

UCF turns to South Florida transfer at QB

UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee completed the game-winning drive Saturday at Boise State, but the Knights must turn to South Florida transfer Timmy McClain for the next few weeks.

Plumlee injured his leg on a 7-yard run with 31 seconds left when his cleat appeared to stick in the turf during a collision with Broncos defenders on the final drive, which ended with Colton Boomer’s 40-yard field goal for an 18-16 victory.

“He had an injury late in that game. Took a pretty good hit,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said Monday. “He’s gonna be out this week and he’ll be out for a few weeks. The good thing is he doesn’t need surgery. He will be back.”

Malzahn said McClain splits reps equally with Plumlee at least two practices each week — typically Tuesday and Wednesday — to keep the team and offense comfortable in situations like this weekend’s game against Villanova. UCF (2-0) plays in its Big 12 opener at Kansas State the following week (Sept. 23).

“He’s ready to go,” Malzahn said of McClain. “We have a lot of confidence in him. A guy that has played and started football games as a true freshman. So, really feel good about Timmy taking over for that.”

Plumlee, a fifth-year senior, has 163 rushing yards on 19 carries this season and completed 38 of 54 pass attempts for 553 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; UCF Knights quarterback Mikey Keene (13) scrambles with the ball against the South Florida Bulls during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

UCF QB Mikey Keene enters transfer portal

UCF quarterback Mikey Keene announced Sunday that he is entering the transfer portal.

“To my brothers, I will forever cherish the memories we have made together the last two seasons,” Keene wrote in a social media post. “Thank you for becoming my family and for seeing me as a leader within this team.”

Keene started 10 of his 11 games as a freshman in 2021 before the Knights turned to Ole Miss transfer John Rhys Plumlee as the starter this season.

Keene played in four games in relief of Plumlee in 2022, completing 60 of 83 passes (72.3 percent) for 647 yards, six touchdowns and just one pick.

In two seasons, Keene has thrown for 2,377 yards, 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions for UCF, which is coming off a loss to Tulane in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights running back RJ Harvey (22) carries the ball during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

UCF upsets No. 20 Cincinnati, 25-21, on last-minute TD

RJ Harvey scored two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 17-yard TD run with 48 seconds remaining as host UCF beat No. 20 Cincinnati 25-21 Saturday.

The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter and Harvey put the Knights ahead (6-2, 3-1 AAC) again when he impressively converted a 2-and-7.

Harvey ran up the middle, eluded three tackles and easily scored to give UCF a 24-21 lead. After the Knights easily made the extra point, their defense sealed it as KD McDaniel forced a fumble that pushed Cincinnati back to its own 5. Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste then broke up a pass by Ben Bryant on 3rd-and-30, and Bryant’s 4th-and-30 pass went for only 9 yards.

UCF’s final drive ended a six-game winning streak and a 19-game conference winning streak for the Bearcats (6-2, 3-1).

Harvey’s TD capped a big performance on the ground for UCF, which entered the game ranked sixth nationally in rushing. The Knights outgained Cincinnati by a commanding 258-35 margin, enabling them to secure 30 first downs and control possession for 37:05.

Harvey led all rushers with 84 yards on 18 attempts, including a 26-yard TD that gave UCF a 10-0 lead through the opening quarter.

UCF lost starting quarterback John Rhys-Plumlee midway through the second quarter. Plumlee absorbed a hit to the head by Cincinnati’s Arquon Bush with about seven minutes left and stumbled walking back to the huddle.

After Plumlee completed 7-of-11 passes for 71 yards, Mike Keane finished 15 of 21 for 176 yards. He also directed a 13-play drive that gave UCF an 18-13 lead with 4:36 remaining on Isiah Bowser’s 3-yard run out of the wildcat formation.

Following Bowser’s score, UCF missed the two-point conversion and Cincinnati went up 19-18 when Ryan Montgomery easily scored on a 39-yard run with 3:04 left. The Bearcats converted the two-point conversion when Tyler Scott made a leaping one-handed catch for a 21-18 lead.

Before UCF scored twice in the fourth, the Bearcats rallied from a 12-6 deficit to take a 13-12 lead on Josh Whyle’s 14-yard TD catch with seven seconds left in the third.

Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant completed 25 of 45 passes for 298 yards but also absorbed four sacks.

After UCF took a 10-0 lead late in the first, Cincinnati settled for two 33-yard field goals by Ryan Coe to get within 10-6 by halftime. After the Bearcats recovered a fumble by Bowser midway through the third, Bryant was sacked in the end zone for a safety with 7:52 left.

–Field Level Media

Oct 13, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights quarterback John Rhys Plumlee (10) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Temple Owls at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

High-powered QBs headline tilt between UCF, East Carolina

UCF is aiming for its fifth straight victory on Saturday when it travels to Greenville, N.C., to face East Carolina.

The Knights (5-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) are coming off their highest-scoring showing of the season, a 70-13 thrashing of Temple.

UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee completed 18 of 22 passes for 373 yards and four touchdowns, and also ran for 37 yards and three scores. His seven total touchdowns tied a program record, and the performance earned him AAC Offensive Player of the Week and a Manning Award Star of the Week.

On the season, Plumlee — who transferred to UCF from Ole Miss — has 1,516 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns, 468 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. His 157.5 passer rating is the second-best in the conference.

Plumlee is the key to an offensive unit that is putting up 41.3 points per game, which is 13th best in FBS.

“The offense is starting to get into rhythm,” second-year UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “It’s all coming together. We have a chance to be a really good offense.”

East Carolina (4-3, 2-2) has a talented quarterback of its own in Holton Ahlers.

The fifth-year senior has thrown for 2,124 yards and 17 touchdowns, while rushing for 108 yards and two scores. Ahlers owns career records in the American for completions and passing yards, and he needs just four more touchdowns through the air to tie former Memphis quarterback Brady White for the all-time lead in passing scores.

Ahlers is coming off a quadruple-overtime win over Memphis, in which he passed for 304 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score.

“Short memory, though, because we’ve got another very challenging game coming up against a very talented UCF team who is off to a great start this year,” ECU coach Mike Houston said this week. “UCF’s offense is explosive with Plumlee and his surrounding cast there. It’s probably our biggest challenge of the year so far.”

UCF and ECU are tied 10-10 in the head-to-head series, but the Knights have six straight wins over the Pirates in a streak that dates back to 2016.

–Field Level Media

Oct 5, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights wide receiver Javon Baker (1) runs the ball against Southern Methodist Mustangs safety Nick Roberts (22) during the second half at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

UCF seeks fourth straight win, faces Temple

After losing to Louisville in Week 2, UCF has rebounded and will seek its fourth straight win when it hosts Temple on Thursday night in American Athletic Conference play at Orlando, Fla.

Second-year coach Gus Malzahn and his Knights will be facing the Owls in UCF’s annual Space Game, a contest that honors the long relationship between the central Florida school and the nearby U.S. space program.

During their three-game winning streak, the Knights (4-1, 1-0 AAC) have played in another galaxy and put a vast amount of space between themselves and the opposition on the scoreboard — a combined 108-43 upper hand in points.

UCF collected a conference-opening 41-19 win over SMU last Wednesday, pouring it on by a 31-6 margin in the second half after trailing at halftime. The Knights’ defense made big plays in the second half of the game that pitted new SMU coach Rhett Lashlee and Malzahn, who have worked together on five previous teams.

“We played our best football game,” Malzahn said. “We dominated the second half.”

Though they allowed 476 total yards to the offensive-minded Mustangs, the Knights held them to 4-for-16 on third downs. UCF had seven tackles for loss, eight pass breakups and five quarterback hurries.

In its last outing on Oct. 1, Temple (2-3, 0-1) led 3-0 at halftime in Memphis before the Tigers awakened and scored four times in the final 17 minutes for a 24-3 conference win.

Owls first-year coach Stan Drayton said his team isn’t playing complementary football, with the defense leading the way and the offense trying to keep up.

Penalties and turnovers have also been a problem, as E.J. Warner — the son of former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner — threw three interceptions.

In three of its games, Temple’s defense has held the opposition to 16 points or fewer, including a 28-0 blanking of UMass.

“The defense played lights out for about 2 1/2 or three quarters,” Drayton after the Memphis defeat. “They’re playing 89 plays compared to 50-some-odd plays on offense. That’s just not a good formula we’re living by right now.”

UCF has won five straight in the series and owns a 7-2 all-time edge.

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights head coach Gus Malzahn calls a play during the second quarter against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

UCF, SMU finally meet after multiple delays

After multiple postponements, host UCF and SMU finally will get together for their American Athletic Conference opener Wednesday night in Orlando, Fla.

UCF (3-1) and SMU (2-2) originally were scheduled to meet Saturday, but that was changed to Sunday in anticipation of Hurricane Ian. The game was then moved to Wednesday after the storm ravaged Florida.

With his team having to travel and in need of some recovery time, Mustangs coach Rhett Lashlee said his squad benefitted from the delay.

“It gave us maybe 36 to 48 hours for the guys a chance to catch their breath, not only physically but mentally,” Lashlee said. “Like we said last week, we’re beat up, so one of the positives is getting an extra few days maybe to try to get a little healthier.”

Lashlee views the conference schedule as a “new season” after his team came away with losses to Maryland (34-27) and TCU (42-34) the previous two games.

“We’ve got a really good league,” he said. “It’s wide open and we want to get off to a good start. Our goal is to try to be one of the two teams left, after those eight games, (that is) still in it.”

The only blemish on the Knights’ season so far is a 20-14 setback to Louisville at home Sept. 9. They bounced back with consecutive victories, including a 27-10 win over Georgia Tech on Sept. 24, when quarterback John Rhys Plumlee ran for a team-high 100 yards and a touchdown to guide the Knights.

“Obviously, the game we lost, we had an opportunity to win,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “I really think we’re getting better as a team. I know we’re getting better.”

Malzahn and Lashlee have a relationship that dates back to when Malzahn coached high school football and Lashlee was his quarterback. Lashlee later joined Malzahn’s staff as an assistant at Springdale (Ark.) High School and also was an assistant under Malzahn at Arkansas State and Auburn.

“(Lashlee) is one of the smarter coaches I’ve ever been around, been able to work with,” Malzahn said. “He’s very good with players and one of best offensive minds in college football.”

Lashlee said he spoke on the phone with Malzahn last week to make sure everyone was safe.

“I think they’ll be ready to go and so will we,” Lashlee said.

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights running back Otis Anderson (2) runs the ball as Florida A&M Rattlers defensive lineman Renaldo Flowers Jr. (96) defends during the second half at Spectrum Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Father charged with murder of former UCF RB Otis Anderson Jr.

Former UCF running back Otis Anderson Jr. was shot and killed Monday, and his father has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

Anderson Jr. was 23. The family is not related to longtime NFL running back Ottis Anderson.

“We have now confirmed and are devastated to hear of the passing of Otis Anderson Jr.,” UCF said in a statement. “He was revered by his teammates, our fans, and everyone within Knight Nation. Our deepest condolences go out to everyone who loved Otis. He was taken too soon and will truly be missed.”

An arrest report released Tuesday said Anderson Jr. had an argument with his parents at their home in Jacksonville, Fla. The father and son separated, but mother Denise Anderson told police that her husband confronted Anderson Jr. once more in the kitchen.

Police found Anderson Jr. suffering from at least one gunshot wound to the chest. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The elder Anderson appeared before a judge Tuesday, was held without bond and has a court appearance scheduled for Dec. 22.

Anderson Jr. played for UCF from 2017-2020. He went undrafted in 2021 and signed with the Los Angeles Rams. He spent time training camp and preseason with the Rams and began the regular season on their practice squad before being cut.

“The Rams are saddened by the tragic and sudden loss of Otis Anderson Jr. … He was a promising young man with a bright future. Our sincere condolences are with his family during this very difficult time,” the Rams said in a statement Tuesday.

Anderson Jr.’s former coach at UCF, Josh Heupel, now the coach at Tennessee, also sent his condolences.

“Saddened and stunned by the passing of Otis Anderson Jr.,” Heupel wrote. “Tough and gritty, fun and full of laughter, he made such a positive impact on our university, community, and our locker room. He was an unbelievable teammate. My condolences go out to the entire UCF family.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2021; Louisville, Kentucky, USA;  UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) throws a pass against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half at Cardinal Stadium. Louisville defeated Central Florida 42-35. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

UCF QB Dillon Gabriel (broken clavicle) out indefinitely

UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel is out indefinitely after fracturing his left clavicle on the final play of Friday night’s 42-35 loss to Louisville.

“I thank God that I will not need surgery, but at this point there is no timetable for my return,” Gabriel posted social media on Saturday. “Thank you to everyone for their support during this time. I know I’ll be back better than ever.”

Gabriel, who led the nation in passing yards per game in 2020, was injured during the Knights’ desperation multi-lateral attempt as time expired at Cardinal Stadium.

He completed 22 of 29 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for a score, but his interception was returned 66 yards by Jaylin Alderman for the tie-breaking touchdown with 13 seconds left.

Gabriel, 20, is in his third season at UCF. He has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 8,041 yards with 70 TDs and 14 interceptions in 26 games. He led the FBS with 357.0 passing yards per game last season.

UCF (2-1) has an upcoming bye week before playing its American Athletic Conference opener at Navy on Oct. 2. Freshman Mikey Keene is listed as Gabriel’s backup on the depth chart.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; Provo, UT, USA; BYU quarterback Zach Wilson passes the ball as San Diego State linebacker Caden McDonald (54) defends in the first half, of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Provo, Utah.  Mandatory Credit: George Frey/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 BYU, Central Florida meet in Boca Raton Bowl

BYU had little time to savor the flavor of a victory in its regular-season finale before learning the destination of its next game.

The 17th-ranked Cougars (10-1) will visit the Sunshine State on Tuesday to face Central Florida (6-3) in the Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium.

“I was just really ecstatic about that and just really excited about another chance to play with my team,” BYU linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi said, per the Salt Lake Tribune. “… It’ll be fun to travel out to Florida and have some warmer weather, a lot warmer than last weekend.

“The team is really excited to play, prove ourselves again and be able to work and fix some of the things we have been lacking the last couple of weeks.”

The Cougars answered a 22-17 setback at undefeated Coastal Carolina on Dec. 5 with a 28-14 victory over San Diego State on Saturday. Zach Wilson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the latter contest to help BYU secure its first 10-win season since 2011.

“It’s going to be warm and it’s just another opportunity — I think that’s the best thing that we can have,” Wilson said, per the Salt Lake Tribune. “What a great team we’re going against as well, it’s going to be an explosive offense we’re against on the other side. We’re going to have everything put together to play well against these guys. They’re a good team.”

Wilson wasn’t kidding about the offense of the Knights, who rank second in the nation in total offense (585.6 yards) and passing (373) and sixth in points per game (44.3). UCF outdid that last number in its last outing, a 58-46 victory over South Florida on Nov. 27.

Like Wilson, Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel is a finalist for the Manning Award. Gabriel leads the nation with 3,353 passing yards and is second nationally with 30 touchdown passes.

Gabriel has added motivation for this game, and he didn’t have to look far to find it. His father, Garrett, previously played for Hawaii and engaged in a memorable battle against Ty Detmer and BYU back in his day.

“It’s almost funny because he had a chance to play them and now me. I’m super-excited for the opportunity,” Gabriel said, per the Orlando Sentinel.

With Marlon Williams (team-leading 71 catches for 1,039 yards and 10 touchdowns) opting out of the bowl game and declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft, UCF will lean on wideouts Jaylon Robinson (51 catches, 935 yards, five touchdowns) and Jacob Harris (seven touchdowns).

Greg McCrae leads the Knights in carries (131), rushing yards (681) and rushing touchdowns (nine). He found the end zone in every game but one this season.

While UCF boasts a potent offense, BYU’s defense isn’t too shabby. The Cougars have allowed an average of 14.6 points per game this season.

“Our players and staff are excited to be in this bowl game,” UCF coach Josh Heupel said. “It gives our guys one more time to play together and gives us one more chance to go 1-0. We’ve done a lot of good things this year, and we look forward to this next opportunity.”

The Knights will need to keep tabs on the Cougars’ rushing attack. Lopini Katoa amassed 130 all-purpose yards against San Diego State in place of injured Tyler Allgeier, who leads BYU in carries (131), rushing yards (957) and touchdowns (12).

–Field Level Media