Harvey leads UCF past Cincinnati, 28-26

By: Ryan Roberts

Six weeks ago, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the Cincinnati football program. The Bearcats had just went on the road to Pittsburgh and physically dominated a Pitt team that was known for their toughness. Cincinnati lost to Miami (OH) the following week and entered Saturday's match up against UCF on a six game losing skid, still searching for their first Big 12 victory. 

The Central Florida Knights won their first three games but haven't won a game since defeating Villanova on September 16th. Gus Malzahn's squad enters Nippert Stadium Saturday with a five game losing streak.

Despite their records, both teams came in with impressive offensive stats. UCF ranked no. 1 in the Big 12 and 4th nationally in rushing yards per game (227) while Cincinnati ranked no. 3 in the Big 12 and 6th nationally in rushing yards per game (223).

This was going to be a game that came down to which team simply wanted it more, which team could take care of the ball, and which team could force the opposition in to turnovers or mistakes. 

 Cincinnati won the toss and elected to receive. First thoughts on that decision is Scott Satterfield wanted to come out and have his offense set the tone early.

The Bearcats started the game with a 7 yard Emory Jones keeper. UCF's defense held on 2nd and 3rd down to put the UC offense in an early 4th and 1 situation at their own 34. Emory Jones lined up under center and pushed his way forward for a 1st down. Corey Kiner took the next handoff 16 yards for a first down and Emory Jones found freshman Barry Jackson Jr for a 25 yard completion to advance UC to the UCF 23 yard line. 

Emory Jones was sacked for a 9 yard loss two plays later and the Bearcats would have to settle for a 39 yard Carter Brown field goal. With 9:58 remaining in the first quarter, the Bearcats were on the board and leading UCF 3-0. The scoring drive: 10 plays, 53 yards, 5:02.

The defense came on and did their part on the first UCF drive as Deshawn Pace had a big 3rd down stop with a backfield tackle on UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee to force the punt. 

Cincinnati's offense started their next drive on their own 2 yard line and were able to drive to the UCF 41 after a 23 yard run by Kiner and 13 yard completion to Braden Smith. 

The UC offense would find itself in another 4th and 1 situation but were unable to convert as it looked like Emory Jones tripped when dropping back for a play action pass. The ball sailed over Xzavier Henderson's head out of bounds and UCF took over. 

Cincinnati's defense looked like they were going to force a 3 and out but Bryan Threats was called for an illegal block below the waist and Jordan Young was called for a passing interference in the end zone on the next play. Just like that, UCF was at the UCF 26 with a fresh set of downs. 

John Rhys Plumlee completed a 16 yard pass to Javon Baker two plays later and Rhys Plumlee called his own number from 8 yards out to give UCF a 7-3 lead with 20 seconds left in the 1st quarter. 

The bigger issue with the score: Bryan Threats was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the score and ejected from the game.

Brady Lichtenberg replaced Emory Jones on the next UC drive with a mixed bag of results. 

Lichtenberg completed his first pass of the drive to Ryan Montgomery for 10 yards on an out route. Montgomery then ripped off a 13 yard run two plays later to the Bearcats' 47. 

The drive would stall and Cincinnati would be forced to punt.

UCF took over at their own 4 and Rhys-Plumlee found a wide open Kobe Hudson for a 33 yard pick up on the second play of the drive to the UC 37. UCF's offense would sputter and the UC defense once again made a big play, sacking Rhys-Plumlee on 3rd and 12 after a UCF false start. 

The offense was unable to capitalize on the good field position. 

On 1st and 10 at the UCF 47, Lichtenberg found Xzavier Henderson across the middle for a completion to the UCF 35. Henderson then fumbled the ball and after the ball was kicked around, UCF would eventually recover the fumble at their own 12 yard line. 

The Knights offense started their drive with a 24 yard RJ Harvey run and would put together a 9 play, 88 yard scoring drive to take a 14-3 lead with 4:12 remaining in the half. RJ Harvey capped the scoring drive off with a 13 yard rush for the touchdown. 

Emory Jones would re-enter the game on the next UC drive and took a sack on the first play for a 3 yard loss. Fortunately for Emory and the offense, Ryan Mongtomery took the next handoff off tackle for a 24 yard gain to the Bearcats 48 and followed the run up with a 16 yard gain to the UCF 36 yard line. 

Montgomery took his next carry 25 yards to the UCF 11 and Emory Jones delivered an absolute dime on the next play to Braden Smith in the side corner of the end zone to cap off a 9 play, 73 yard drive in 2:09. With 1:58 remaining in the half, UCF led 14-10.

As they had done multiple times throughout the first half, the defense pinned their ears back and forced a quick UCF 3 -and- out to give the Cincinnati offense the ball back with 1:40 remaining in the half.

Emory Jones took a sack on the first play of the ensuing drive, but Corey Kiner took the next handoff right up the middle of the UCF defense for a 25 yard gain to the UCF 46 yard line. 

The half would end with Jones throwing an interception on a deep attempt to Xzavier Henderson. UCF took over with 15 seconds left in the half, ran one play, and would go in to the locker room with a 14-10 lead.

Corey Kiner led the Bearcats with 93 yards on 12 carries, while Ryan Montgomery use big runs to rack up 80 yards on 5 carries. The Cats rolled up 291 yards of offense compared to 178 for UCF, yet still trailed at the half. 

UCF opened the second half with a what looked like would be a short possession. Deshawn Pace was everywhere defensively for the Black Cats. and forced UCF into a 4th and 3 at their own 46.

RJ Harvey took a fake punt attempt 19 yards for a UCF first down and UCF got a new set of downs at the UC 35. Recurring them, but the defense would do what they had to do on the next 3 plays to force  a UCF field goal attempt.

Colton Boomer came on and missed the 47 yard field goal attempt to end the opening drive of the second half UCF.

The Bearcats took over and went 3 and out. Already frustrated, the fanbase responded with boo's as the drive lasted just 1:29 and resulted in negative 6 yards.

Cincinnati's offense would finally wake up and respond on their next possession.

Emory Jones took a 5 yard sack to start the possession but responded with a 40 yard completion to Donovan Ollie- his first catch of the season. Ryan Montgomery took the next handoff 29 yards to the UCF 11 and scored his his first touchdown of the season two plays later from 2 yards out to give the Bearcats a 17-14 lead with 5:19 remaining in the 3rd quarter. The 75 yard scoring drive took 7 plays and spanned 3:08.

The lead wouldn't last long for the Bearcats.

UCF converted multiple 3rd downs and used a 10 play, 85 yard drive over 4:42 to take a 21-17 lead with 31 seconds remaining in the 3rd qtr. RJ Harvey had 4 carries for 52 yards, including a 25 yard touchdown run on the drive. 

On UC's next drive, the offense converted a 4th and 9 from the UCF 37 on a 35 yard completion to Braden Smith to the UCF 2 yard line but a false start on De'Andre Buford on the next play moved the Bearcats back to the 7 yard line. The 15 play, 65 yard drive over 9:10 would end with a Carter Brown 28 yard field goal.

With 6:21 remaining in the game, Cincinnati trailed 21-20 and needed a defensive stop to give the offense a winning opportunity. 

UCF's offense took the field and drove 75 yards in 3:40 to extend their lead to 28-20 with 2:42 remaining in the game. A 40 yard completion to Javon Baker on 2nd and 7 from the UCF 38 helped get the Knights in to scoring position. After a personal foul on Justin Wodtly moved UCF half the distance to the goal at the 5, RJ Harvey scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1 yard run.

Emory Jones and the offense were able to drive down the field and score on a 6 yard touchdown by Corey Kiner with 1:21 left, but the 2 point conversion failed.

UCF recovered the onside kick and after two penalties on the defense, were able to run the clock out.

Final Score: UCF 28 Cincinnati 26

Key Stats and Notes:

The Bearcats rolled up 515 yards of offense and held UCF to 393. Still, penalties in key 3rd down situations and turnovers allowed UCF to walk of the field with a win.

- Corey Kiner finished with 119 yards on 19 carries, while Ryan Montgomery rushed for 113 yards on just 8 carries. The run game continues to be strong, but it is not translating to wins.

- Braden Smith led the receivers with 6 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. He had a key 37 yard reception to the UCF 6 on the final drive to set up Kiner's touchdown.

- For the second week in a row, we saw an opposing running back absolutely gash the Cincinnati defense. RJ Harvey finished with 167 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries. Quarterback John Rhys-Plumlee added 62 yards on 13 carries. 

- 8 penalties for 75 yards. One Interception. One lost fumble.  When two teams are this close in talent level, you simply can't make the types of mistakes we saw today in key situations. For comparison, UCF has 3 penalties for 20 yards.

Final Thoughts:

Cincinnati has now lost 7 in a row and are not eligible for a bowl game for the first time since the 2017 season...Luke Fickell's first year. Scott Satterfield was visibly upset in the post game presser and didn't hold anything back when speaking with the media. This team has lost several games due to turnovers and undisciplined play and tonight was another example of outgaining a team by over 100 yards but it not being reflected on the scoreboard. UCF got 7 points off of the Cincinnati miscues. That is the game right there. With 3 games left and the Cats no longer bowl eligible, it will be interesting to see how these next few weeks unfold and which players stick with the program and which players decide to pack it in for the season. 

Scott Satterfield was visibly upset and "pissed off" to open his post game presser:


Corey Kiner Post UCF:


Jack Dingle Post UCF

Ryan Montgomery Post UCF:

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