#22 UCF upsets previously unbeaten #17 Tulane 38-31; keeps pace with UC in American Athletic Conference race

John Rhys Plumlee (courtesy UCF Athletic Communications)

November 12, 2022

NEW ORLEANS – Needing to play one of its best games of the season on the road at No. 17 Tulane, the 22nd-ranked UCF football team was up for the challenge. Headlined by a season-high 336 rushing yards, the Knights earned a 38-31 road win against the Green Wave Saturday evening at Yulman Stadium.

UCF (8-2, 5-1 AAC) handed the Green Wave (8-2, 5-1) their first conference loss of the season and first home AAC loss in nearly a full calendar year. The win was also the Knights’ first ranked road win since 2013 when the program defeated No. 8 Louisville, 38-35.

With the win, UCF now sits in a three-way tie for first place in the American Athletic Conference but the Knights control their own destiny thanks to defeating Tulane and Cincinnati, the other two teams tied for first.

“Real proud of our team,” said UCF head coach Gus Malzahn. “Going on the road against a top-20 team in one of the biggest games that they’ve had here in probably a really long time and our guys played really well. Defensively, we were down three starters and had a bunch of young guys that haven’t played a lot in the game, and I thought they battled. We forced turnovers and almost had three.”

Dubbed as a battle between the American’s top defenses statistically, it was the offenses that stole the show in the game. UCF tallied 468 yards of total offense, while Tulane compiled 391. The Knights rushed for 336 yards to eclipse their previous season high of 314 set against Florida Atlantic. That mark is the most for the program since Oct. 31, 2020, when UCF recorded 353 at Houston.

Tulane entered the game allowing 127 rushing yards per game and had only given up four rushing touchdowns. After it was all said and done Saturday, UCF more than doubled the rushing yards mark and tallied at least four rushing touchdowns in a game for the fourth time this season.

Making his return to the field, John Rhys Plumlee started at quarterback for the Knights and rushed for 176 yards to set the program record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game. The previous mark of 122 was held by Vic Penn, who accomplished the feat against Middle Tennessee in 1999.

“We knew we had to run the ball,” Malzahn added. “That’s a big-time defense and we felt like we had to get off to a good start running the football. I couldn’t be more proud of our offensive line, John Rhys and our running backs.”

Playing nearly two hours from his hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Plumlee ignited the Knights offense early in the game as he raced 47 yards down the field to the three-yard line to set up a Colton Boomer 25-yard field goal on the opening drive of the game. After a quick three-and-out by Tulane’s offense, Plumlee took off for a 67-yard touchdown run to give the Knights a 10-0 lead on the longest rush of the season for UCF.

Tulane answered with a big play of their own, a few minutes later to narrow the margin to 10-7 after a 70-yard run from Tyjae Spears and a one-yard touchdown pass from Michael Pratt to Duece Watts.

For the fourth time this season, UCF running back Isaiah Bowser found the endzone twice to extend his season total to 13, which leads the AAC. Bowser’s first score gave the Knights a 17-7 lead and his second of the day late in the fourth quarter helped put the game away.

The Sidney, Ohio, native rushed 12 times for 41 yards on a 16-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter to chew up 8:07 on the clock. Bowser’s incredible runs gave UCF a 38-24 lead after he capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Knights a 14-point advantage with only 3:32 remaining.

Following the conclusion of the first quarter, the Knights owned a 17-7 lead and held an 11:13 to 3:47 advantage in time of possession. Tulane had only allowed 13 points in the first quarter of games all season and UCF needed just 15 minutes to surpass the total yielded in 135 minutes through the first nine games.

Jason Johnson and Jarvis Ware led the UCF defense with eight tackles each, including six solo stops apiece. Johnson tallied a strip sack and forced fumble.

“It’s a really big win for us and I’m proud of the way our guys competed,” Malzahn said.

UCF will return to action at home on Saturday, Nov. 19, when the Knights welcome Navy to FBC Mortgage Stadium on Senior Day. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on ESPN2.

COURTESY UCF ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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