After putting up 17 points on three turnovers in the third quarter, it looked as if the Knights had finally caught a few breaks and found a way to win.
But prior miscues and mental mistakes proved too tough to overcome as the opportunity slipped from their grip when the fourth quarter rolled around, and UCF (0-10, 0-6 American Athletic Conference) was taken down by Tulsa (5-4, 2-3 AAC), 45-30, Saturday.
UCF’s defense allowed a touchdown to the Golden Hurricane during their first drive of the game, which is the fifth consecutive contest it has allowed a game-opening drive to go for a touchdown. UCF has only kept Furman and Stanford off the board during opening-game drives this season.
The Knights had a third quarter to remember as Chequan Burkett intercepted a pass and former walk-on Brendin Straubel forced a fumble on a kickoff return and had an interception. Each play resulted in points for the Knights.
“That was key coming in, try to get more turnovers defensively, make them punt," interim head coach Danny Barrett said in a press release. "I thought the defensive guys for the most part did a good job, except some big plays on the run.”
The Knights’ mistakes began when Justin Holman threw an interception at 4:09 in the first quarter. But a hustle play by freshman Tristan Payton to strip the ball overturned that play when redshirt junior Nick Patti recovered it 18 yards closer to the end zone. That play eventually set up a 37-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Matthew Wright, who made 3 of 3 attempts during the game.
Holman finished the game 22 of 41 with 293 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His first touchdown pass was an 11-yard reception to redshirt freshman Tre’Quan Smith, who shined bright for the Knights, compiling 131 yards on seven receptions and setting the record for most yards and receptions as a freshman in UCF history.
Freshman Taj McGowan ran for 38 yards on 11 carries and picked his first career touchdown as a Knight.
The Knights picked up 412 total offensive yards and Tulsa picked up 425, but UCF’s four turnovers proved more costly than Tulsa’s four. It was just the second game all season that the Knights managed to eclipse the 16-point mark.
“You at the effort put forth, you look at some of the things we got corrected from a week before and I think we’ve got a chance these last two games to come out with some Ws," Barrett said in the release.
After 10 consecutive weeks of football, the Knights head into a bye week and will play their next game Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Bright House Networks Stadium.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.