It took just two plays for the Cincinnati Bearcats to take a six-point lead over the Knights. From there, UCF never came close to a comeback.
Backed by 402 total yards and five touchdowns in the first half, Cincinnati (5-3, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) sailed to a 52-7 win over UCF (0-9, 0-5 AAC) Saturday afternoon. It was the Knights’ first game in 12 seasons without the guidance of former head coach George O’Leary.
UCF players wanted to get the team’s first win of the season for O’Leary and interim head coach Danny Barrett, who was a quarterback at Cincinnati from 1979-82, but Bearcats’ quarterback Gunner Kiel almost single-handedly dashed those hopes as he went 15-for-15 with 319 yards and five touchdowns.
"We talked about not giving up the big play and that's all it was, a game of big plays," Barrett said in a press release. "We've got to find the right combination of guys on the back end that can help us out."
Junior Justin Holman tried to rival his competitor on the other side of the ball, but he struggled once again, completing 12 of 23 passes for 101 yards and an interception before being replaced by redshirt freshman Tyler Harris.
Kiel began the game with a two-play, 74-yard drive capped by a 43-yard touchdown pass. He mirrored that in the opening drive of the second half with a two-play, 82-yard drive capped by a 78-yard touchdown pass. He also threw for 59- , 20- and 11-yard scores.
"It's about having some Knight pride. That's the bottom line, and that's how you move forward," Barrett said in the release.
Knights’ redshirt freshman kicker Matthew Wright struggled with the ball at his foot. He missed two 34-yard field goal attempts off the uprights, including one during UCF’s second drive of the game, which would have made it a 7-3 deficit.
Redshirt freshman C.J. Jones was able to get the Knights on the board with a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, which was set up by a 51-yard run — the team’s longest of the season. He finished with 123 yards on 18 carries.
But the Knights’ 313 total offensive yards were trumped by the Bearcats’ 726 — the most UCF has given up all season.
The Knights are back on the road Nov. 7 at noon when they take on Tulsa.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.