The UCF Knights earned the rematch they craved.
Tulsa earned a 23-21 win over UCF last week, clinching home-field advantage in the C-USA title game. The loss was more lopsided than the final score implied, with the Golden Hurricane overwhelming the Knights in the trenches. UCF players immediately vowed they would force a rematch and find a way to turn in a stronger performance.
The Knights were hit with an NCAA postseason ban, but UCF is appealing the sanctions and is allowed to compete for the conference title and accept a bowl invitation.
Before UCF could look ahead to Tulsa, the Knights had to get past UAB.
The Knights dominated the showdown with the Blazers from start to finish, forcing turnovers and making big plays throughout the contest.UCF sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles connected with J.J. Worton for an 18-yard touchdown pass on the team's opening drive. Shawn Moffitt hit the extra point to give the Knights a 7-0 advantage with 12:40 left in the first.
UAB was driving on its first offensive possession, thriving while running its dangerous no-huddle offense. However, the Blazers' Darrin Reaves fumbled on the UCF 1-yard line. The play was reviewed and UCF's A.J. Bouye was credited with snagging the ball in the Knights' end zone for a touchback.
UCF senior Latavius Murray took over on the Knights' ensuing drive. He had one run for a 25-yard gain, then capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown scamper with 6:37 left in the first quarter. It was Murray's 13th rushing touchdown of the season.
UAB was driving again on its next possession that stretched into the second quarter. However, UCF denied the Blazers in the red zone again.
The Knights stuffed Reaves for a loss of one yard on fourth-and-one at the UCF 9-yard line with 13:49 left in the second quarter.
UAB finally converted on a drive, with Ty Long hitting a 25-yard field goal to make the score 14-3 with 6:40 left in the second quarter.
The Knights responded with another steady drive. Rannell Hall returned a kickoff 36 yards to the UCF 49-yard line and Bortles directed the Knights back to the end zone. Quincy McDuffie took a handoff on a sweep play and rushed for a 9-yard touchdown. Moffitt tacked on the extra point to push UCF ahead 21-3 with 4:13 left in the second quarter.
UAB was driving again when senior Lyle Dankenbring returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown with 2:34 left in the second quarter. He collected congratulatory pats on the helmet from teammates and coaches clearly thrilled to see the under-the-radar senior make a big play.
The Blazers were down, but they didn't give up. Jonathan Perry hit Patrick Hearn for a 76-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-10 UCF with 1:28 left in the second quarter.
UCF responded with a quick drive. Bortles complated a 4-yard pass to J.J. Worton, who made an acrobatic catch in the end zone to pad the Knights' lead. After Moffitt's extra point, UCF held a 35-10 lead with 26 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Knights continued to pour on the points in the third quarter.
Senior Rob Calabrese, who started his UCF career as a quarterback but switched to wide receiver, had a chance to run the offense out of the Wild Knight formation. He completed one pass for 19 yards. McDuffie later scrambled inside on a sweep play, adjusting for an 8-yard touchdown run when his natural path was cut off. Moffitt hit the extra point to make the score 42-10 with 8:02 left in the third quarter.
UAB added another touchdown late in the third. Perry rushed for a 2-yard score and Long hit the extra point to make the score 42-17 with 4:41 left in the third.
Perry connected with Reaves for a 15 yard touchdown pass to trim the Knights' lead in the fourth quarter. After Long's extra point, UCF had a 42-24 advantage with 10:22 left in the game.
McDuffie gave UCF a jolt late.
He broke free for a 43-yard touchdown run. Moffitt hit the extra point, making the score 49-24 UCF with 4 minutes left in the game.
Before kickoff, the Knights honored a talented senior class that has a chance to tie the school record for most wins by a class if it can score its 33rd victory against the Blazers. The group of 20 seniors includes the team's captains — Murray, starting center Jordan Rae and safety Kemal Ishmael.
<b>Check back soon for complete postgame coverage.</b>