Strong Second Half Lifts UCF to 41-19 Win Over SMU

Box Score (PDF) | Postgame Notes | Press Conference

Thanks to a strong second half, the UCF football team opened American Athletic Conference play with a 41-19 win over SMU Wednesday night at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Trailing 13-10 at halftime, the Knights outscored the Mustangs 31-6 in the second half with SMU scoring as time expired.

"First of all, I'm really proud of our team and the way we played, specifically in the second half," said UCF head coach Gus Malzahn. "We've been talking all week about we've got to come out in the second half and play good football and we did that. We dominated the second half.

"We played our best football game, and I'm telling you hats off to SMU. They're a really good team and Coach Lashlee is a great coach. We wish them nothing but the best moving forward."

The game was a difference of two halves, as SMU compiled 287 yards of total offense to UCF's 145 to take a three-point lead into the intermission. It was a different story in the second half; however, as the Knights came out of the locker room and dominated for the remainder of the game.

UCF recorded 204 yards of offense in the third quarter, passing for 148 yards and rushing for 56 yards. The Knights' defense was stellar in the quarter, shutting out SMU and limiting the Mustangs to just 83 yards. SMU was 0-for-3 on third-down conversions and 0-for-2 fourth-down conversions in the third quarter.

Isaiah Bowser ignited the offense with a one-yard touchdown run to give UCF a 17-13 lead after the extra point from Colton Boomer. Ryan O'Keefe found the endzone for the first time this season on a 26-yard pass from John Rhys Plumlee with 3:07 remaining to push the Knights' advantage to 24-13.

UCF's defense pressure continued in the fourth quarter, as Tre'mon Morris-Brash tackled SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai in the endzone for a six-yard loss and the Knights first safety since the 2021 season opener against Boise State.

Plumlee found O'Keefe for his second touchdown reception of the game on a 58-yard pass, as O'Keefe scampered down the left side of the field. Bowser recorded his third rushing touchdown of the game and eighth of the season to take over the AAC lead, extending UCF's lead to 41-13.

Several Knights turned in their best performances of the season, as Javon Baker caught a career-best six passes for 138 yards, which was also a personal best. O'Keefe's 117 yards receiving were a season-high and Plumlee surpassed 300 yards passing for the third time this season.

Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, Jason Johnson and Koby Perry led UCF in tackles with nine each. The Knights defense tallied seven tackles for loss, eight pass break ups and five quarterback hurries.

UCF returns to action against Temple on Thursday, Oct. 13, in the Knights annual Space Game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN.