Replay: This Time Knights Finish It Right

A week ago, UCF led Louisville 14-7 at halftime and the Knights probably thought the margin should have been larger.
Gus Malzahn's team simply needed to finish the job—yet instead it was the Cardinals who made all the right moves in the final two periods.
The situation was not dissimilar Saturday in Boca Raton.
This time the Knights led Florida Atlantic 16-14. It promised to be another test of which team could play a superior second half.
UCF left no question.
The Knights scored the final 33 points in the contest, allowed only 18 second-half yards (none in the third period) and ended up with a dominant 40-14 triumph over a 2-1 Owls team at FAU Stadium.
The response by visiting UCF?
Exactly what Malzahn had hoped to see.
The leftover frustrations from the Knights' loss to Louisville left UCF with little to say heading into the FAU contest against a team that had scored at least 38 points in all three of its 2022 outings.
Malzahn's team knew what needed to be done. It was simply a matter of executing.
Pregame exhortations from Malzahn proved limited: "Let's have pods of energy on that sideline. Let's get after these guys."
Still, it ended up being the Owls who impressed early. FAU put a touchdown on the board two minutes into the contest—and by the end of the opening period the Owls had rolled up 170 total yards and nine first downs and led by a TD.
Then something clocked into gear for the Knights.
After the UCF defense forced FAU to punt after a four-play possession early in the second period, the Knights went to work in earnest.
Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee connected with tight end Alex Holler for a longest-of-the season 64-yard pass play down the UCF sideline to the home team's 24-yard line.
Three plays later, after scoring the first UCF points himself, Plumlee ran it in from five yards out and the Knights led for the first time at 16-14.
That was just the beginning.
The halftime message and challenge to the Knights became crystal clear.
"Impose your will on them," said Malzahn at intermission.
"We gotta finish this thing off. Nobody stops you. Nobody stops you."
"Play ball, baby," added Plumlee with a grin.
"Defense, we settled down—we know what they are now," said Malzahn.
"We're up by three and we get the ball. Finish this one. We're going to finish this thing."
But maybe even Malzahn couldn't have expected the level of domination in those final two periods of play.
The Knights had posted 326 offensive yards by intermission. Then the yardage total in the third period alone was 203-0 in favor of UCF. FAU ran only nine plays in that third period. The Owls threw for only 22 combined passing yards in the middle two quarters.
UCF took the second--half kickoff and drove 73 yards on a dozen plays----with Plumlee connecting on passes of 14 yards to Ryan O'Keefe, 14 more to Javon Baker and 17 to Holler. Running back Isaiah Bowser took it in himself from a yard out from the Wildcat formation to make it 23-14.
Plumlee threw an interception on the next possession, and the return went to the UCF one. But the Knights' defense rose up with a game-changing turnaround.
A high snap on first down prompted a loss of three yards. Later, on fourth and goal from the two, Keenan Hester blocked the field-goal attempt, and UCF was in business again.
Plumlee ran for 36 yards, then threw to O'Keefe for 28—and when R.J. Harvey capped the 86-yard march by scoring from the three, the visitors were off to the races.
Colton Boomer kicked the second of his two field goals on the fourth play of the fourth quarter—and Plumlee capped the scoring (after another three and out for FAU) with a perfectly thrown 20-yard ball to Baker for the final points.
Plumlee produced career highs in pass completions (25) and passing yards (339) and now ranks third in the country in total offense.
The Knights played with first-timers at the punting spot (Mitch McCarthy was one for 46 on the only UCF punt of the night) and placekicking slot (Boomer connected on field goals of 41 and 29).
Malzahn's unit prospered even without captain and linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste and receiver Kobe Hudson.
Baker finished with career highs in receptions (seven); Holler had a career-best 115 receiving yards—and Plumlee had a seventh career 100-yard rushing effort on his way to a game-high 121 ground yards on 20 carries.
Jason Johnson led the defense for the second straight week in tackles, this time with 10. Morris-Brash had six stops and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Over the last three periods, Travis Williams' defense allowed no points, nine first downs and 126 net yards.
Over those same three periods UCF gained 551 total yards—and the Knights now rank sixth nationally in total offense (and lead the AAC) at 532.3 yards per outing (Plumlee is third individually in that category at 360.7 per game).
The UCF run game rates fourth nationally at 273 yards per outing.
"We're back on track now," shouted Malzahn in a rowdy UCF locker rom.
"Great job of putting that thing away—same situation at halftime.
"Hey, defense—18 yards the whole second half!
"Offense, 300 yards rushing, 300 yards passing!
"I'm proud of you guys. We bounced back.
"We've still got some things to clean up, but we've got a chance to finish this thing the right way."
It hadn't been the easiest of weeks for the UCF players or coaches as they all faced questions coming off the second half against Louisville.
This time, there were smiles all around as the Knights eased out into the humid drizzle of a South Florida night.