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UCF Cruises Past No. 15 Oklahoma State 45-3 in Annual Space Game

by Justin Wilson

ORLANDO – You couldn’t have written a better script and UCF was determined to make sure it had a happy ending.

Looking for their first Big 12 Conference home win, seventh consecutive win in their annual Space Game and head coach Gus Malzahn’s 100th career win, the Knights or the Citronauts, the team’s moniker in their space games, checked off all of the above.

From the opening kickoff, UCF was dominant en route to a 45-3 win against 15th-ranked Oklahoma State Saturday night at FBC Mortgage Stadium.

“I’m real proud of our team. That was the No. 15 team in the country that came in here, probably the hottest team in all of the country and they had a huge win last week. They had the leading rusher in the country and our defense played our best game. I think they had minus six yards at halftime. We held Gordon to 26 yards, I guess or 25 yards on 12 carries. That’s really probably the story of the game."

Gus MalzahnUCF Football Head Coach

UCF (5-5, 2-5 Big 12) recorded its first top-15 win since 2017 when the Knights defeated seventh-ranked Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the first top-15 home win since 2009 against No. 13 Houston.

Oklahoma State (7-3, 5-2) had won its last five games and not lost since September before UCF defeated the Cowboys Saturday night.

Now in his 12th season as a head coach, Malzahn is one of four active Big 12 coaches to reach 100 career wins.

In a matchup that featured two of the nation’s top running backs, it was UCF’s RJ Harvey that stole the spotlight from Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon, who entered the game as the nation’s leading rusher. Harvey tallied his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game and a career-high 206 rushing yards to become the Citronauts’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Greg McCrae in 2018. Harvey also found the endzone three times, matching his career best from last week’s game at Cincinnati.

Harvey now owns 1,082 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns this season, while UCF’s defense limited Oklahoma State to just 52 rushing yards, the fewest for the Cowboys this year, and Gordon was held to 25 yards on 12 carries.

UCF’s dominant defense held OSU without a touchdown for the first time in more than a full calendar year, as the Cowboys last game without finding the endzone was a 48-0 shutout loss at Kansas State on Oct. 29, 2022.

Averaging 180.1 rushing yards per game, Oklahoma State had -6 rushing yards at halftime and ended the game with just 52, which is the fewest for the program since Nov. 15, 2014, when the Cowboys tallied 34 against Texas.

UCF’s Demari Henderson turned in the best performance of his young career, as he intercepted a pair of passes, recovered a fumble and tallied four tackles.

“Our defense had four turnovers, and you know it was kind of wet out there, it was kind of hard to throw it, and our guys did a super job on defense when they were throwing it," Malzahn added. 

The Citronauts were clicking in all three phases of the game, as the offense tallied its conference play season-high 592 total yards and scored 45 points, the most UCF has scored in a Big 12 game.

Within the first six minutes of the game, the ‘Nauts jumped out to a 14-0 lead as Harvey capped UCF’s first drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown and Kobe Hudson reeled in a seven-yard pass from quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, after the Citronaut defense forced a fumble.

Colton Boomer pushed UCF’s lead to 17-0 with a 30-yard field goal and Hudson followed with a career-long 75-yard touchdown reception. After the OSU defense jumped offsides, Plumlee lofted a pass along the UCF sidelines and Hudson made a great adjustment to reel in the football and race 75 yards for the score, extending the Citronauts' lead to 24-0 before halftime. Plumlee, who threw for a season-high 299 yards, was 7 for 12 with 207 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

"Offensively, I mean JRP is really starting to get healthy, and he’s really throwing the ball well in practice. He’s getting his legs underneath him, and our receivers are making some plays, and we played one of our better games, if not our best offensive game today, too."

It was just the second time this season that 15th-ranked Oklahoma State was shutout in the first half as the Cowboys were held to 128 total yards, while UCF racked up 320.

OSU ended UCF’s shutout bid in the third quarter with a 25-yard field goal from Alex Hale, but the ‘Nauts defense rose to the challenge of keeping the Cowboys out of the endzone.

On UCF’s next possession, Harvey recorded the second-longest rushing touchdown in program history with a 92-yard scamper. It was the longest play in the Big 12 this season and the second longest rushing TD in the nation to give the Citronauts a 31-3 lead and end any OSU thoughts of a comeback.

Hudson added a third receiving touchdown late in the third quarter to log his first career game with three TD receptions and the first for the program since Jacob Harris accomplished the feat against South Florida on Nov. 27, 2021.

For the second consecutive game, Harvey tallied three rushing touchdowns, as he scored from two yards out in the fourth quarter to push UCF’s lead to 45-3.

Wide receiver Javon Baker also filled up the box score, reeling in four passes for 112 yards. Four different players had a catch for at least 35 yards in the game, with each of Hudson’s three catches going for touchdowns.


Electric Crowd

“The crowd was unbelievable, and it was just a really, really quality win for our program. I really appreciate our fans, I know it’s been a tough season, but we got some momentum, and I think right now there’s a lot of excitement with the last two games,” Malzahn added.

Defensively, Lee Hunter led the way with seven tackles, including five solo stops and two tackles for loss, while senior Jason Johnson had five tackles, a sack and two pass break ups.

UCF will return to action at Texas Tech next Saturday, Nov. 18. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT from Jones AT&T Stadium on FS2.