For the second time this season, the UCF football team will battle a ranked opponent as No. 15 Oklahoma State makes the trip to Orlando on Saturday in UCF’s annual Space Game. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at FBC Mortgage Stadium.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Talents: Mike Monaco (PXP), Robert Griffin III (Analyst), Kris Budden (Sideline)
Radio: FM 96.9/AM 740 The Game, Sirius 106, XM 199
Talents: Marc Daniels (PXP), Gary Parris (Analyst), Scott Adams (Sideline)
Spanish Radio: UCFKnights.com, YouTube.com/UCFKnights
Live Stats: click here
A UCF WIN WOULD...
• Mark the first home Big 12 Conference win and second conference win in program history.
• Give Gus Malzahn his 100th career win as a head coach, as he would become one of four Big 12 coaches to reach the milestone.
• Give Malzahn his first win against Oklahoma State in his first meeting against the program.
• Mark the Knights’ seventh consecutive win in their annual Space Game with a perfect 7-0 record.
• Be better than a loss
• The UCF Space Game has been played annually since the 2017 season and the Knights are 6-0 all-time in space games. The game recognizes the University of Central Florida’s roots, founded as Florida Technological University in 1963 with the mission of providing personnel to support the growing U.S. space program at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As the academic scope expanded beyond its original focus on engineering and technology, the school was renamed the University of Central Florida in 1978.
• Saturday’s matchup will be the first meeting between the programs and the contest will feature two of the nation’s best running backs, UCF’s RJ Harvey and Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon, and a pair of the nation’s top rushing offenses.
• Following a career performance in the Knights’ 28-26 win at Cincinnati, RJ Harvey was named the Big 12 Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. He shares the honor with Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon. Harvey recorded a career-high 164 yards on 20 carries with a career-best three touchdowns and he is the first UCF running back with four consecutive 100-yard games since Latavius Murray in 2012.
• UCF’s offense continues to rank among the nation’s best, as the Knights are ninth in the country and second in the Big 12 Conference in total offense, averaging 483.7 yards per game. The Knights have surpassed 400 yards in six of their nine games this season, headlined by 723 yards in the season opener against Kent State, the second-most yards by any team in the country this year in a single game.
• Additionally, the Knights are fourth nationally in rushing offense with 227.1 rushing yards per game. UCF has rushed for 200 or more yards in six of its nine games this season, highlighted by 389 rushing yards in the season opener against Kent State, the seventh most by an FBS team this season and the second-highest mark in the Big 12. The Knights have rushed for 140 or more yards in each game this season, one of only two teams nationally to accomplish the feat, joining West Virginia.
SCOUTING OKLAHOMA STATE
Oklahoma State is ranked No. 15 in the AP Top 25 and No. 17 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, marking its highest ranking of the year. Following a 27-24 win over then-No. 9 Oklahoma last week, OSU was honored by the FWAA as the Cheez-It National Team of the Week. Oklahoma State is now on a five-game winning streak and is in a two-way tie with Texas for first place in the Big 12 standings.
In Big 12 play only, the Cowboys rank No. 1 in the conference in fewest sacks allowed, No. 1 in the conference in scoring offense at 35.83 points per game, No. 1 with 491.33 yards of total offense per game, and No. 1 in yards per carry at 6.03.
Oklahoma State is averaging 30.7 points per game this season and opponents are averaging 24.3 ppg.
Now in his 19th season, head coach Mike Gundy is among the winningest active coaches with a career record of 163-77. Gundy owns the most career wins among active Big 12 coaches.
Saturday’s matchup will be the first meeting between the Knights and the Cowboys. OSU has played three previous games in Orlando with a 3-0 mark in those contests, but the Cowboys have never played at FBC Mortgage Stadium.
UCF’S SPACE GAME
The UCF Space Game has been played annually since the 2017 season and the Knights are 6-0 all-time in space games. The game recognizes the University of Central Florida’s roots, founded as Florida Technological University in 1963 with the mission of providing personnel to support the growing U.S. space program at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As the academic scope expanded beyond its original focus on engineering and technology, the school was renamed the University of Central Florida in 1978.
UCF Space Game History
Oct. 13, 2022 - W, 70-13, Temple
Oct. 22, 2021 - W, 24-7, Memphis
Oct. 24, 2020 - W, 51-34, Tulane
Nov. 2, 2019 - W, 44-29, Houston
Nov. 1, 2018 - W, 52-40, Temple
Oct. 14, 2017 - W, 63-21, ECU
UCF Space Facts
- UCF is No. 1 nationally for placing graduates in aerospace industry jobs.
- In 1968, UCF established its motto: “Reach for the Stars” to represent the University’s promising aerospace education in engineering, electronics and other technological professions.
- 29% of Kennedy Space Center employees are UCF Alumni.
- The 50-yard line of FBC Mortgage Stadium is on the exact latitude as Launch Complex 39A, NASA’s most historic launch pad, 31 miles to the east.
Following a career performance, UCF running back RJ Harvey was named the Big 12 Co-Offensive Player of the Week, the conference office announced on Monday. He shares the honor with Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon.
Harvey tallied his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game in the Knights’ 28-26 win at Cincinnati, as the Orlando native recorded a career-high 164 yards on 20 carries with a career-best three touchdowns. He is the first UCF running back 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.
Harvey had eight different runs for 10 or more yards against the Bearcats, headlined by three rushes for more than 25 yards, to give the Knights their first Big 12 Conference victory and first win at Cincinnati since 2017.
He now owns 876 rushing yards this season and is on pace to become the first 1,000-yard rusher for UCF since Greg McCrae compiled 1,182 yards in 2018.
The Knights’ running back has tallied 498 rushing yards in his last four games on 73 carries.
Harvey is the second UCF player to garner a Big 12 weekly honor this season, joining kicker Colton Boomer, who was tabbed the special teams player of the week on Sept. 11, 2023.
According to PFF Stats, Harvey was the highest graded running back among Power 5 Conferences in week 10 at 91.6 percent.
MALZAHN APPROACHING 100 CAREER WINS
Now in his third season as UCF head coach, Gus Malzahn is just one win shy of 100 for his career. His 99 victories are the fourth most among active coaches in the Big 12 Conference.
Big 12 Head Coaching Wins
1. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State, 163-77
2. Lance Leipold, Kansas, 161-58
3. Chris Klieman, Kansas State, 108-36
4. Gus Malzahn, UCF, 99-52
5. Dana Holgorsen, Houston, 92-66
Additionally, Malzahn’s .656 career winning percentage (99-52) ranks among the nation’s top 20 active coaches.
PLUMLEE SETS CAREER RECORD
UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee etched his name atop the program’s record books in last Saturday’s win at Cincinnati, surpassing the career record for rushing yards by a quarterback. The Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native now owns 1,119 rushing yards during his time in a Knights uniform to break the record previously held by McKenzie Milton with 1,078. Including his time at Ole Miss, Plumlee has tallied 2,308 career rushing yards to rank 25th nationally among active players and second among quarterbacks, behind LSU’s Jayden Daniels with 2,832.
MALZAHN VERSUS RANKED OPPONENTS
Gus Malzahn-coached teams have been at their best against the toughest competition, as Malzahn has recorded 22 wins against ranked opponents in his 12-year tenure as a head coach. Saturday’s game marks the second ranked opponent that the Knights have played this season, coming up short in their first ranked matchup of the season at No. 6 Oklahoma, 31-29.
At UCF, Malzahn is 2-3 versus ranked opponents as the Knights defeated No. 20 Cincinnati and No. 17 Tulane last season with losses to No. 18 Tulane in the 2022 American Athletic Championship Game and third-ranked Cincinnati in 2021 in addition to this season’s loss to the Sooners.
UCF IN NOVEMBER
The month of November has historically been great to the Knights, as the program owns a 95-58 all-time mark during the month.
30 OR LESS
In each of UCF’s wins this season, the Knights have held their opponent to 30 points or less. Last year, UCF was 7-3 when limiting the opposition to 30 or less and the Black and Gold were a perfect 8-0 in 2021. Malzahn is 19-3 in his UCF tenure when limiting the opponent to 30 points or less.
Through 36 games as head coach for the Knights, Malzahn’s teams have averaged 32.5 points per game.
PROTECTING THE QB
UCF’s offensive line did not allow a sack in the win at Cincinnati, which marked the first time that the unit has not allowed a sack this season and the first time for the Knights since last year’s regular-season matchup at Tulane.
SEASON HIGH IN SACKS, TACKLES FOR LOSS
In contrast, UCF’s defensive line had one of its best performances of the year against the Bearcats, recording season highs in tackles for loss (9) and sacks (5). The Knights’ five sacks were the most since
UCF notched six at South Florida on Nov. 26, 2022. Moreover, UCF’s nine tackles for loss marked the most since the Georgia Tech game last season on Sept. 24 when the Black and Gold also logged nine.
UCF’s defense forced a pair of turnovers at Cincinnati, as defensive back Nikai Martinez intercepted a pass as the Bearcats were driving in the red zone and William Wells forced a fumble. The Knights have now recorded a turnover in eight of their nine games this season, which is tied with Oklahoma for the best mark in the Big 12.
SLIM MARGIN FOR ERROR
UCF lost its first five Big 12 Conference matchups in 2023—but four of those defeats found the Knights knocking at the door most of the night. Here are details of how UCF competed in those contests:
--@Kansas State (L 44-31): UCF led 10-7 (1st period) and 24-21 (3rd period). Kansas State then scored 23 unanswered points, notching points on all four second-half possessions. Timmy McClain threw for three TDs filling in for the injured John Rhys Plumlee.
--BAYLOR (L 36-35): UCF led 21-0 (1st period), 28-7 (halftime) and 35-7 (midway through 3rd period). Baylor scored the final 29 points, including on every second-half possession.
--@Oklahoma (L 31-29): UCF led 10-7 and 17-14 (2nd period) and 23-17 (3rd period). The Knights drove 75 yards in 1:57 and scored a late TD but missed the potential tying two-point conversion with 1:16 on the clock.
--WEST VIRGINIA (L 41-28): UCF never led, but the Knights trailed only 17-14 at half and 24-21 after three periods before West Virginia scored 17 unanswered points. Four UCF turnovers (West Virginia had one) made life difficult.
Several of those results might have been different if not for some untimely UCF turnovers deep in enemy territory:
--Kansas State: UCF lost a fumble at the Kansas State 38 and threw an INT at the Kansas State 39 (both 2nd period).
--Baylor: UCF threw an INT at the Baylor 14 (3rd period) and lost a fumble on the Baylor 28 (Baylor returned it 72 yards for a TD with 6:02 left).
--West Virginia: UCF threw INTs at the West Virginia 5 (2nd period), the West Virginia 42 (2nd period) and the West Virginia 12 (3rd period) and lost a fumble at its own 27 (West Virginia converted that into a TD).
UCF’s Javon Baker and Kobe Hudson have formed one of the best wide receiver duos in the nation, as the Knights are one of just seven teams nationally and the only one from the Big 12 Conference with two players that have recorded at least 600 receiving yards this season. Additionally, both players rank among the top 10 in the Big 12 in receiving yards, as UCF is the only team in the league with two among the top five.
Baker has reeled in 33 passes for 678 yards with five touchdowns and Hudson has 28 catches for 607 yards and four TDs. The latter is averaging 21.68 yards per catch and the former is averaging 20.55. Both marks are among the top three in the league.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK
The Knights’ defense has been able to get to the opposing team’s quarterback this season, as UCF’s 23 sacks lead the Big 12. UCF’s 172 sack yards are the most of any team in the conference. The Black and Gold have tallied a sack in every game this season, headlined by a season-high five sacks in the Knights’ 28-26 win at Cincinnati.
Fifth-year defensive lineman Tre’mon Morris-Brash is tied for the Big 12 lead with 8.5 sacks for a loss of 67 yards and redshirt sophomore Malachi Lawrence is third with 6.5 sacks for 48 yards. UCF is the only program with two players among the top five.