RJ Harvey, John Rhys Plumlee lead UCF to first Big 12 win, over Cincinnati

The Knights snap a five-game losing streak despite allowing 515 yards of total offense, including 248 yards on the ground.
UCF running back RJ Harvey, upper right, celebrates with teammates after scoring during the first half of Saturday's game in Cincinnati.
UCF running back RJ Harvey, upper right, celebrates with teammates after scoring during the first half of Saturday's game in Cincinnati. [ JEFF DEAN | AP ]
Published Nov. 5, 2023|Updated Nov. 5, 2023

CINCINNATI — UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee raced into the stands inside Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium on Saturday night and hugged his mom.

The embrace was part of an exuberant postgame celebration Plumlee and his Knights teammates hadn’t experienced since opening their first Big 12 Conference slate.

RJ Harvey rushed for a career-high three scores and Plumlee ran for another as UCF outlasted the Bearcats 28-26 to secure its first Big 12 win.

“A lot of work goes into what we do,” Plumlee said. “Countless hours up at the facility with coaches. They work their butts off, too. So, we really, really try to enjoy wins because, man, they’re fun.”

Despite allowing 515 yards of total offense, including 248 yards on the ground, to the Bearcats (2-7, 0-6 Big 12), the Knights (4-5, 1-5) handed their former American Athletic Conference foe their sixth straight loss while snapping their own five-game skid.

Both teams are in their first season in the Big 12. Saturday marked UCF’s first win at Cincinnati since 2017.

“Making the move with them to the Big 12, there was a little bit of ... I wouldn’t say extra, but we know these guys, right? We’ve played them every year,” Plumlee said. “So, we really wanted to put on a good showing, and we did enough to win tonight.”

Harvey, who finished with a career-high 164 yards on 20 carries, scored on a 1-yard run to put the Knights up 28-20 with 2:41 left to play. The touchdown capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive.

“I just wanted to do what I could to help the team when I got the ball,” Harvey said. “It is a good feeling to get through that stretch and get our first win in this league.”

Emory Jones and the Cincinnati offense answered by taking just 1:14 to march 74 yards. Jones scrambled for a 19-yard gain on second-and-1 and then later linked up with Braden Smith for a 37-yard pass play down to the UCF 6-yard line.

Corey Kiner, who had 119 yards on 19 rushes, punched it in to bring the Bearcats within 28-26 with 1:27 remaining. Jones’ pass attempt to Dee Wiggins on the two-point conversion fell incomplete and UCF escaped with the win.

Cincinnati committed eight penalties for 75 yards, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by safety Bryon Threats for making contact with an official.

“It pointed to a very undisciplined football team because that’s what we were tonight,” Bearcats coach Scott Satterfield said. “That pisses me off. We’ve been that way, and that’s on me.”

The takeaway

UCF: The two teams entered the day with their all-time series tied 4-4 with Cincinnati owning a slim 231-223 scoring lead. Now, the Knights own the series edge and remain in contention for a bowl game.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ rough Big 12 debut season under first-year coach Scott Satterfield continues. Cincinnati will need to wait another week to capture its first conference win. The Bearcats also won’t play in a bowl game for the first time since 2017.

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Up next

UCF: The Knights return home to host Oklahoma State on Nov. 11. It will mark UCF’s first meeting against the Cowboys.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats head to Houston on Nov. 11 for their first of two straight road games. Cincinnati will face the Cougars, who like UCF and the Bearcats moved from the AAC to the Big 12 in July. Cincinnati is 13-15 all-time against Houston, including a 35-20 win in the 2021 AAC championship game.

By KEITH JENKINS Associated Press

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