UCF Football Earns First Big 12 Win at Cincinnati, 28-26

by Justin Wilson

CINCINNATI, Ohio – The UCF football team picked up its first Big 12 Conference win Saturday night, as the Knights came away with a 28-26 win against Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium. UCF earned its first win at Cincinnati since 2017 and won its second consecutive against the Bearcats to take a 5-4 lead in the all-time series.

After having second-half leads in several games this season, UCF (4-5, 1-5 Big 12) sealed the deal against Cincinnati (2-7, 0-6) to record the Knights’ first Big 12 win in program history, with the Black and Gold in their inaugural season in the league.

“Real proud of our team. It feels good to see smiling faces after our first Big 12 win. This is a hard place to win, I think 2017 was the last time we won here. I’m real proud of the way our guys won the game. We made the critical plays at the end of the game that we haven’t made in our previous games.”

Gus MalzahnUCF Football Head Coach

The Knights did whatever it took to get the team win with the offense rushing for 200 yards for the sixth time this season and the defense tallying a season-high nine tackles for loss, five sacks and two turnovers.

Running back RJ Harvey tallied his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, as the Orlando native recorded a career-high 164 yards on 20 carries with a career-best three touchdowns. Harvey is the first UCF player with four consecutive 100-yard games since Latavius Murray in 2012. Additionally, his 164 rushing yards are the most by a Knights running back since Isaiah Bowser rushed for 172 against Boise State in the 2021 season opener.


Cincinnati struck first following a 39-yard field goal from Carter Brown, but UCF answered a few drives later with a six-play drive amassing 59 yards to score the first touchdown of the game. The drive was aided by a costly pass interference call against the Bearcats, drawn by Kobe Hudson, and John Rhys Plumlee capped the drive with an eight-yard rushing touchdown to make it 7-3.

Harvey pushed the Knights’ advantage to 14-3 when he scored the first of three rushing touchdowns, taking it in from 13 yards out on a drive that he started with a 24-yard rush. UC countered on its next drive to trim the margin to 14-10, as quarterback Emory Jones found Braden Smith for an 11-yard passing touchdown.

With the Bearcats looking to get on the scoreboard before halftime, sophomore defensive back Nikai Martinez came up big for the Knights by intercepting a pass in the endzone and returning it 24 yards to help the Knights own a 14-10 lead after the first 30 minutes of play.

UCF opened the third quarter with a 45-yard drive, but Colton Boomer’s 47-yard field goal attempt missed wide left. After the teams traded three-and-outs, Cincinnati and UCF scored on the next five possessions.

Ryan Montgomery’s two-yard rushing touchdown gave Cincinnati its second lead of the day, 17-14, but the Knights countered with one of their best drives of the game to regain the lead. UCF ran 10 plays for 85 yards en route to Harvey finding the endzone for the second time, as the Black and Gold grabbed a 21-17 lead.

The Knights defense seemed to have forced a stop early in the fourth quarter, but an illegal formation penalty against the special teams unit extended the drive and Cincinnati took advantage. Fortunately, UCF’s defense came up big once again as Jones was sacked by Knights freshman John Walker and redshirt sophomore Malachi Lawrence to force a Cincinnati field goal, which cut the Knights lead to one at 21-20.

UCF had another great response offensively with Jarrad Baker starting the drive with a 10-yard rush and Harvey ending the drive with a one-yard rush to set a career high with his third rushing score of the game. Leading by eight (28-20), UCF kicked off to UC knowing the Bearcats needed to score a touchdown and convert the two-point conversion to knot the score.

A 19-yard scramble by Jones and a 37-yard pass helped Cincinnati solve the first part of the equation, but UCF’s defense did not allow the two-point attempt to be converted and the Black and Gold held on to a 28-26 lead.

After recovering the onside kick, UCF was in position to put the game away after a big run from Plumlee but he slid one yard shy of the first down marker. Cincinnati used its final timeout before another run from Plumlee to pick up the first down with 1:15 on the clock and seal UCF’s first Big 12 win.  

Plumlee finished the game 13 for 23 with 165 yards passing and 13 carries for 53 yards rushing with a touchdown. Baker led the receiving core with four catches for 93 yards, as the senior has now recorded a catch in 23 consecutive games.

Defensively, UCF linebacker Walter Yates set a season high and matched his career high with 13 tackles to lead all players in the game. Jason Johnson had eight tackles, while Tre’mon Morris-Brash set a career-high with 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

UCF will return to action next weekend when the Knights host Oklahoma State in their annual Space Game. Kickoff time and the television designation will be announced following the conclusion of all Big 12 games on Saturday.