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UCF Football Falls in Road Game at Kansas

by Justin Wilson

LAWRENCE, Kan. – In its first trip to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, the UCF football team was defeated by the Kansas Jayhawks, 51-22, Saturday afternoon in a Big 12 Conference game. The Jayhawks jumped out to an early lead in the game and the Knights were not able to overcome the deficit.

After the lone score of the opening quarter was a Kansas (5-1, 2-1) field goal, the Jayhawks scored 21 points in the second quarter to grab a 24-0 lead at halftime. It marked the first time UCF (3-3, 0-3) had been shutout at the half in more than seven seasons with the last occurrence in 2015.

“Obviously, a disappointing a loss,” said head coach Gus Malzahn. “Give them credit, they’re a good football team and we didn’t play well in any phase of the game. Our bye week is coming at a good time, we’ll evaluate everything and we’ll be better in the second half [of the season].”

The Knights ended the shutout in the third quarter, as quarterback Timmy McClain found tight end Alec Holler for a 13-yard touchdown grab, Holler’s second of the season.

RJ Harvey found the endzone for the seventh time this year in the fourth quarter, as the Knights looked to narrow the margin but to no avail. Kansas had an answer each time UCF pulled closer with a score. The Jayhawks compiled 490 yards of total offense and rushed for 399 yards, while the Black and Gold recorded 371 yards of offense and 202 rushing yards.

UCF was unable to get a stop defensively when it needed it, as Kansas was 6-for-9 on third downs and recorded 14 big plays (passing 15+, rushing 10+), while the Knights were 7-of-12 on third downs and added 10 big plays.

John Rhys Plumlee made his return to the starting lineup for the Knights but was unable to play at length after tweaking his leg and was replaced by McClain. McClain was 12-for-15 with 136 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. He connected with freshman Randy Pittman Jr.  in the fourth quarter, the first TD reception of Pittman’s career on a 23-yard reception.

Harvey led the rushing attack with 133 yards on 16 carries with a score, averaging 8.3 yards per attempt. He surpassed 100 rushing yards for the first time this season and the second time in his career. Johnny Richardson chipped in with 47 rushing yards on eight attempts. Javon Baker paced the receivers with four catches for 85 yards, including a 41-yard long.

After returning a fumble for a touchdown last week, sophomore Demari Henderson scooped up a bad snap on a PAT attempt for Kansas and sprinted 97 yards down the field to give UCF two points after the Jayhawks’ unsuccessful PAT attempt.

Defensively, linebacker Jason Johnson had eight tackles including six solo stops and defensive end Josh Celiscar matched his career best with seven tackles with two tackles for loss. Safety Jireh Wilson also had seven tackles. Freshman John Walker made his first career start in the game and linebacker Rian Davis earned his first start at UCF.

For Kansas, quarterback Jason Bean was 8-for-12 with 91 passing yards and a touchdown. Preseason All-Big 12 selection Devin Neal rushed for 154 yards on 12 attempts and Daniel Hishaw tallied 19 carries for 134 yards.

The Knights will now have a bye week before returning to action at No. 12 Oklahoma on Saturday, Oct. 21. Kickoff time and the television designation will be announced by the Big 12 Conference on Monday.