ORLANDO — It did not take long for UCF to find its groove after losing starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee to an injury late in last week’s win over Boise State.
Timmy McClain and the Knights got to work early and dominated Villanova 48-14 on Saturday night to close their non-conference schedule as they look ahead to their first conference game as members of the Big 12 next week at Kansas State.
The Knights already had a 24-0 lead when McClain found Javon Baker in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown for his first touchdown pass of the year.
McClain tallied 321 pass yards and two touchdowns for the Knights, adding an additional 44 rush yards. He stepped in for Plumlee, who is expected to miss the next several weeks with a leg injury.
“After that first series, I really got back to doing what I do best,” McClain said. “I felt really comfortable throughout the game.”
McClain had plenty of help on both sides of the ball in his first start since 2021, when he played for USF.
Sophomore running back Jordan McDonald scored the first two rushing touchdowns of his career in the first quarter and R.J. Harvey led the Knights’ group of rushers with 85 yards on 14 attempts with two touchdown scores as well.
The defense put in work too, holding Villanova to 228 yards and keeping the Wildcats off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. The Wildcats had only 38 total yards and three first downs at halftime, trailing 34-0 at the break. Villanova did not get past the 50-yard line until the third quarter.
“We couldn’t establish anything,” Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said. “We had a little too much pressure. We had a couple of things open downfield, we just couldn’t get it there. We couldn’t get enough on first down to keep the sticks moving.”
The Wildcats scored early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown run from quarterback Connor Watkins, his third rushing touchdown of the season. Running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye added an 11-yard touchdown run with less than five minutes to play.
UCF tallied 600 yards of total offense to complete the blowout victory.
Now, all eyes for the Knights turn to the team’s first trip to play in the Big 12. The Knights will open their conference schedule on the road against Kansas State next week.
The university has been building to this game since declaring itself national champions following an undefeated 2017 season and accepting an invitation to join the Big 12 last summer. The Knights finished their non-conference schedule 3-0 and feel ready to enter the big stage of a Power 5 conference.
“Everybody is excited to take on Kansas State next week,” Harvey said. “We know we’re going to get their best shot; we’re going to give them our best shot,too. I feel like this is probably the best UCF team I’ve been a part of.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
By PHILIP ROSSMAN-REICH, Associated Press