Strong Second Half Lifts Baylor Past UCF

by Justin Wilson

ORLANDO – It was a tale of two halves Saturday night at FBC Mortgage Stadium, as the UCF football scored on the first play of the game and led throughout most of the game, but a furious late comeback gave the Baylor Bears a 36-35 victory.

After leading 28-7 at halftime, the Bears closed out the game with 29 unanswered points to come away with the one-point road win.

“I’m really disappointed for our fan base,” said head coach Gus Malzahn. “This was a big moment, and we didn’t seize the moment. We talked about that, the whole time leading up to this game. We let one get away and that’s the way that locker room feels.”

The Knights opened the game with a boom, as the defense forced a three-and-out on Baylor’s first drive and then Johnny Richardson took UCF’s first offensive snap 79 yards for a touchdown to give the Black and Gold a 7-0 lead. It marked the longest play of the season for the Knights, the longest rush of Richardson’s career and his first touchdown of the year.

CK205225-2Johnny Richardson

UCF continued to roll offensively, scoring a touchdown on each of its first three drives for the first time since the South Florida game last year. Quarterback Timmy McClain capped a six-play, 52-yard drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown, his first rushing score in a UCF uniform. A few minutes later, Javon Baker reeled in his first touchdown reception of the season from McClain as the pair connected for a 65-yard TD to mark the longest reception of Baker’s career.

After a Blake Shapen touchdown to get Baylor on the scoreboard, sophomore defensive back Demari Henderson made an incredible play, as he stripped the football from Dominic Richardson and raced 87 yards down the field for a touchdown. The Sanford, Florida, native recorded UCF’s first forced fumble of the season and logged his first career score.

The Knights led 28-7 midway through the game, despite having possession for just 6:58 in the first half to Baylor’s 23:02.

UCF couldn’t get anything going after the intermission and in contrast, it seemed to be just the opposite for the Bears as they outscored the Knights 29-7 in the second half. The Black and Gold moved the ball and tallied 229 yards to Baylor’s 257, but a pair of costly turnovers proved to be the difference.

“We were in complete control of the game. We had a touchdown called back on the three-yard line but, you gotta find a way.”

The Knights opened the second half with a 14-play, 84-yard scoring drive that amassed 8:08. McClain found Xavier Townsend from six yards out to extend UCF’s lead on the sophomore’s second touchdown grab of the season. Baylor countered with a field goal to cut into the deficit and a touchdown drive following a UCF interception trimmed the Knights lead to 35-18.


Baylor forced a stop and took over with great field position to narrow the margin to nine after a five-yard TD pass from Shapen to Monaray Baldwin with 9:38 remaining in the game. Caden Jenkins made one of the biggest plays of the game on UCF’s ensuing drive, as he scooped up a fumble and sprinted 72 yards for the scoop-and-score to swing the momentum even more in favor of the Bears.

Clinging to a 35-33 lead, UCF’s offense trotted back on the field looking to swing the momentum but the drive sputtered and the Knights were forced to punt. Baldwin had the big play of the drive with a 36-yard reception that Baylor in field goal range and Isaiah Hankins split the uprights to give the Bears a 36-35 lead.

UCF ran 11 plays for 33 yards on the final drive of the game, but without the benefit of a timeout the Knights were forced to try a long field goal as time expired and it didn’t have the distance.

Baker led the UCF offense with three catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, while Townsend had four catches for 27 yards and a score. Richardson logged his first 100-yard rushing game of the season with six carries for 105 and a TD, while RJ Harvey has 21 rushes for 95 yards. McClain was 13-of-25 for 234 yards with two touchdowns.

Defensively, captain Jason Johnson headlined the group with 15 tackles, the third most by any Big 12 player this season. Lee Hunter tallied a career-high nine stops, while Demari Henderson charted seven tackles, which was also a career high. Tre’mon Morris-Brash recorded six tackles, highlighted by three tackles for loss and two sacks.

“I just told the team that it’s a tough loss and a game that we let it get away. I think everybody sees

that and everybody knows that. We gotta find a way to put this behind us. We got a lot of champions in that locker room and I’m confident we’ll do that.”

UCF will return to action next Saturday, Oct. 7, as the Knights make a return trip to the state of Kansas. The Black and Gold battle No. 24 Kansas at 4 p.m. on Fox from David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.