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Balanced Offense, Dominant Defense Leads UCF to 56-6 Win Over Kent State

ORLANDO – Playing its first game as a member of the Big 12 Conference, UCF football put together a stellar debut as the Knights defeated Kent State in dominant fashion 56-6 Thursday night in front of a packed FBC Mortgage Stadium.

UCF rushed for 389 yards on 46 carries to set the program record for yards per rush with 8.5, while the Knights completed 25 passes for 334 yards. It marked the second consecutive season the Black and Gold have surpassed 700 total yards in a single game, as the 723 total yards are the most by a team during the 2023 season.

On the other side of the football, the Knights defense limited the Golden Flashes to just six points for the game and kept Kent State out of the endzone. It was the first time since Aug. 29, 2019, that UCF held its opponent without a touchdown.

Real proud of our team, playing your first game you learn a lot about your squad. We had a little adversity early, but the guys really responded like champions. Offensively, we ran for 300, passed for 300, you talk about balance, and we had some rhythm and some explosive plays. Defensively, we did a great job holding a college football team to six points, that's a super job. Overall, I’m just proud of our team, they played with great energy, they played extremely hard, and they played together.

Gus MalzahnHead Coach

Looking to take the next step in his career as a sophomore, wide receiver Xavier Townsend led the offense with five catches for a career-high 81 and opened the scoring in the contest with his first career touchdown reception to give UCF an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, who threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns, found the endzone with a 17-yard rushing touchdown. Kent State moved the ball 49 yards on nine plays in its next possession, but the UCF came up with a big stop to force a 45-yard field goal to make it 14-3.

Jordan McDonald powered through the Kent State defense for a two-yard rushing TD in the wildcat formation to push the score to 21-3 on the second of his career. UCF marched 74 yards down the field and capped off the drive with an 18-yard TD reception by Alec Holler to grab a 28-3 advantage at halftime.

UCF had its way offensively, as eight rushers compiled 389 yards on the ground and five different players scored a rushing touchdown. Back-to-back TDs from RJ Harvey following the intermission extended the Knights lead to 42-3, as the Orlando native tallied his first career receiving TD on a 50-yard catch and run before scoring on a 48-yard rushing TD to mark the first game of his career with a rushing and receiving TD.

Mark-Antony Richards’ first touchdown since 2021 opened the scoring in the fourth quarter to put UCF ahead 49-6 and the final points of the night came via a five-yard rushing TD from running back Demarkcus Bowman.

Similar to the balance in the running game, 10 different receivers caught a pass in the game, headlined by Townsend, Javon Baker’s four catches for 59 yards and Kobe Hudson’s four catches for 44.

Defensively, Lee Hunter and Josh Celiscar had a pair of dominant performances, recording eight and seven tackles, respectively, career highs for both. Hunter, who impressed in fall camp, notched six solo stops to highlight his day and Celiscar logged 1.5 tackles for loss.

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Transfer defensive back DeJordan Mask pulled down the fifth interception of his career in the Knights first turnover of the season.

UCF returns to action next weekend when the Knights travel to Boise, Idaho, for a matchup against Boise State on Saturday, Sept. 9. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET from Albertsons Stadium and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and 96.9 FM The Game.