College Football

Plumlee leads UCF in ’23 season-opening romp


Xavier Townsend scores a touchdown for UCF in the Knights’ 56-6 victory over Kent State. Photo by Michael Fettig

Fifth-year senior John Rhys Plumlee threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the University of Central Florida Knights opened the 2023 season with a 56-6 triumph over visiting Kent State in front of 44,088 at FBC Mortgage Stadium.

In their first game as one of the newest members of the Big 12 Conference, the Knights dominated their Mid-American Conference foe on both sides of the football. Scoring on their first two possessions of the game and reaching the end zone on four of their first six times with the football, the Knights rolled to a commanding 28-3 lead at halftime, largely on the strength on Plumlee’s leadership.

The Ole Miss transfer threw for 281 yards (22-30-2), his sixth career 200-yard passing game, and rushed for another 92 yards on eight carries, including a 17-yard touchdown run.

Plumlee led a balanced attack that amassed 723 total yards. In all, 10 different receivers caught a pass in the game. Xavier Townsend led the group with 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Javon Baker (4-59), Kobe Hudson (4-44) and Randy Pittman, Jr. (3-21) were also among the leaders in that category.

Townsend, Alec Holler and RJ Harvey caught touchdown passes.

In addition, the 389 yards rushing on 46 carries set the program record for yards per rush (8.5), surpassing the old mark of 8.3 set back on Nov. 11, 1986. Five different Knights scored rushing touchdowns (Plumlee, Harvey, Demarcus Bowman, Jordan McDonald and Marc-Anthony Richards).

Johnny Richadson led the ground attack, which included eight different ball carriers, with his third career 100-yard rushing game. He finished with exactly 100 yards on 12 carries.

The Knights were equally dominant on the other side of the football, limiting the Golden Flashes to just two field goals. It was the first time since Aug. 29, 2019 that the Knights held an opponent without a touchdown.

Redshirt sophomore tackle Lee Hunter and senior end Josh Celiscar led the way with eight and seven tackles respectively. Both were career-highs. Hunter recorded six solos while Celiscar included 1.5 tackles for loss.

The victory extended UCF’s season-opening victories to eight, dating back to the start of the 2016 season. The Knights are now 34-10 all-time in home openers.

For head coach Gus Malzahn, it also kept his personal streak alive. He is now 13-0 in home openers as a head coach.

The 1-0 Knights hit the road for another non-conference game, traveling to Boise State for a 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, matchup with the Broncos.

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