The UCF football team couldn’t have picked a better time to put on a show for Saturday night’s Homecoming game.
UCF manhandled Temple in a 34-14 victory that featured an output of a season-high 466 yards of total offense, improving to 3-0 in conference play to remain atop The American standings, along with East Carolina.
“I thought offensively and defensively we put together the best game so far this year working as a team,” UCF head coach George O’Leary said. “I thought they were very productive on defense and the offense was productive at making plays when they had to. It was a good win against a good football team. We have to continue to get better. This past week at practice made a big difference with the offense, putting them in pads and making sure they understood what football is about as far as the contact aspect of it. They took the challenge and brought it to the game today.”
After a week’s worth of recaps of his iconic catch from last year’s game at Temple, it was only fitting for J.J. Worton to score the first touchdown of the evening. On third-and-long, he caught a pass from quarterback Justin Holman, steadied himself and worked his way to the right sideline to take it 25 yards into the end zone.
UCF’s defense set up another scoring opportunity not long after when defensive back Jacoby Glenn stripped Temple wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick of the ball. Defensive back Brandon Alexander recovered the fumble to put the Knights in the red zone. Shawn Moffitt eventually converted a 23-yard field goal, and with 8:31 remaining in the first quarter, UCF had already claimed a 10-0 lead.
UCF had running back William Stanback to thank for its final scoring drive of the quarter. He accounted for 23 yards off six carries during an 11-play, 58-yard march down the field. He followed it through to the end zone, when he hit a wall of Temple defenders in the backfield but continued to rumble his way in for the 1-yard touchdown and give UCF a 17-0 lead.
Temple responded in the opening minutes of the second quarter when a double-reverse pass to quarterback P.J. Walker kept the Owls’ drive alive on third-and-eight, setting them up on UCF’s 5-yard line. Walker hit Romond Deloatch with a 3-yard pass for Temple’s first touchdown, 17-7.
The Knights refused to let the Owls shift the momentum. Breshad Perriman came through, not once but twice, for UCF on its next drive, first hauling in a 19-yard reception on third-and-14. Holman then found the receiver streaking down field for a 54-yard touchdown, much to the delight of the crammed student section waiting for him in the south end zone. With 10 minutes remaining in the half, the Knights claimed a 24-7 edge.
Temple’s special teams helped close the gap when Samuel Benjamin blocked a punt for the second time this year, scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown, 24-14.
Although another punt was blocked and UCF nearly lost possession on an interception that was overturned, the Knights snapped out of their lull just before the halftime break. Miles Pace re-ignited some fire when he sacked P.J. Walker on third-and-11 for a much-needed stop that gave UCF the ball back with 2:34 remaining – just enough time to tack on a few more points.
“Coach pushes us every day. Even if we’re tired, we have to keep going. It’s a bend, but don’t break defense,” Pace said. “We’re just strong. Strong up front, strong at linebackers, everyone plays their gaps, everyone fits and we just stop them in the red zone.”
Holman led the team through a hurry-up offense by utilizing his arsenal of receivers. Josh Reese, gain of 16. Rannell Hall, gain of 11. Hall again, gain of 19 into the red zone. Reese, gain of 11, first and goal. With the clock winding down, UCF settled for another field goal from Moffitt, this time a 19-yarder for a 27-14 lead.
Much of the third quarter was played in the middle of the field until 14 seconds remaining when Stanback broke into the end zone on a 2-yard rush that punctuated a 9-play, 52-yard drive and piled on to the lead, 34-14.
The defense shined in a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter that saw Glenn intercept Walker’s pass on fourth down in the right corner of the end zone that ended any hope of a comeback for Temple.
“This win was very important, just because of the fact that our defense played a phenomenal game and our offense played a phenomenal game,” Alexander said. “The coaches still saw some little mistakes, but for the most part everyone had a collective game and did a great job out there. It was just a wonderful feeling that we actually can play like that. From the first quarter to the fourth quarter everything just took care of itself and everyone took care of their jobs.”