ORLANDO — After UCF's upset victory at Penn State two weeks ago, the Knights entered their matchup with No. 12 South Carolina confident they could compete with a ranked SEC heavyweight.
For a half the Knights proved they were ready. And then they spent the final 30 minutes showing why they aren't quite there yet.
UCF had four turnovers, two leading to Gamecocks scores, and a late rally came up short in a 28-25 loss Saturday.
"If you turn the ball over like we did, it's going to be harder to stay in games," Knights coach George O'Leary said. "I can't say it got away. … We have a lot of young kids and we can't sustain on turnovers and short fields. When you have a chance to make plays you have to make them, and we didn't make enough plays in the second half."
Gamecocks' running back Mike Davis ran 26 times for 167 yards and three touchdowns. He picked up the slack for an offense that played the final three quarters without starting quarterback Connor Shaw, who left with a sprained right shoulder during his first offensive series. He is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.
The Knights (3-1) were sharp early but failed to convert all but one of South Carolina's miscues into points.
UCF quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 358 yards and two touchdown passes, but he had two interceptions and a fumble.
"For the first half, we were the better team," UCF linebacker Terrance Plummer said. "But they made plays in the second half, and we didn't make plays until it was too late."
Shaw was replaced by Dylan Thompson, and the Gamecocks were shut out for a half for the first time since 2010 as the Knights led 10-0.
The Gamecocks (3-1) turned to Davis in the second half, when he had 150 of his yards, including a 13-yard TD run for a 28-10 lead.
"We just started running, running and throwing a few here and there," coach Steve Spurrier said. "We had to try something different. … I like winning better than passing yards."
Still, UCF, playing in front of its first sellout crowd since 2011, closed to 28-18 with 10:13 to play on Bortles' 73-yard touchdown pass to Rannell Hall and subsequent 2-point conversion.
With less than four minutes to play, the Knights fell on a fumble inside their own 5 and drove 95 yards in three plays, capped by a 7-yard Bortles-to-Hall TD pass.
South Carolina fell on the onside kick and ran out the clock.