ORLANDO — UCF dominated the first half against Florida International on Saturday, then had to hold off a rally to preserve a 33-20 victory.
The Knights limited the Golden Panthers to 26 yards of offense en route to a 23-0 halftime lead. But then they allowed 280 in the second half.
"It was two different halves," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "I thought we were in synch on offense in the first half but sporadic and inconsistent the second."
Darian Mallary rushed for 71 yards and two of the Golden Panthers' three touchdowns. Kedrick Rhodes got the other touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Jake Medlock.
"I really like the way we did things in the second half, but we dug too deep a hole in the first half," FIU coach Mario Cristobal said. "We couldn't get them off the field in that first half, and then things were completely different in the second. We started moving it really well."
UCF owned the first half. Quarterback Blake Bortles found fullback Billy Giovanetti on third and goal for a 4-yard touchdown. FIU contributed a safety when a center snap went over punter Jack Griffin's head and out of the end zone to make it 9-0.
Bortles threw a 16-yard touchdown to Rannell Hall in the second quarter, and Largo High graduate Brynn Harvey tacked on a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 23-0.
UCF's defense, meanwhile, manhandled FIU. The Knights allowed only two first downs and forced four three-and-outs.
"We had a chip on our shoulder because we didn't think these guys respected us," said UCF linebacker Troy Davis, who had two sacks and seven tackles. "Then we got sloppy in our techniques and adjustments the second half."
The Knights' win avenged last season's 17-10 loss in Miami.
The Panthers offense finally got on track with an 85-yard scoring drive on their first possession of the second half. Medlock, who was 1-of-8 in the first half, went 4-for-4 for 77 yards on the drive, including the 5-yard touchdown to Rhodes.
UCF responded with an 83-yard drive. Jeff Godfrey, the starting quarterback last season but now a receiver, took a handoff on an end-around, stopped and threw a 10-yard touchdown to J.J. Worton to make it 30-7.
Mallary scored on a 28-yard run to cut the deficit to 30-14 at the end of the third quarter, and later he added a 4-yarder to make it 30-20.
UCF got a 23-yard field goal from Shawn Moffitt with just over two minutes left to seal it.