College Football

UCF offense rolls again in 48-14 triumph over Villanova


UCF running back Jordan McDonald (No. 5) scored two touchdowns in the Knights’ 48-14 victory over Villanova at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Photo by Michael Fettig.

This just in: the UCF offense is pretty good.

The Knights rolled up an even-600 yards of offense on Saturday in their 48-14 victory over Villanova at FBC Mortgage Stadium. It was the third consecutive game for the 3-0 Knights to pile up more than 500 yards of total offense.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Timmy McClain made the most of his first start for UCF, filling in for the injured John Rhys Plumlee, who went down with a leg injury late in last week’s 18-16 victory at Boise State that will keep him out of the lineup for a few weeks.

McClain, a Seminole High School 3-star recruit and University of South Florida transfer, threw for a career-high 321 yards. He completed 20 of 28 passes and matched his career high with two touchdowns. In doing so, McClain surpassed the 2,000 career passing yards mark and now stands at 2,262. He started nine games for USF and played in 11 during the 2021 season before transferring and redshirting for the 2022 season.

McClain and the Knights dominated from the opening drive, marching 69 yards in 14 plays, the longest drive of the season so far. It set up the first of two field goals from Colton Boomer, who remains a perfect 6-for-6 this season, and the Knights were off and running.

A pair of 1-yard touchdown runs from Jordan McDonald lengthened the lead to 17-0 in the opening period and that advantage ballooned to 34-0 by halftime with a 5-yard touchdown run by R.J. Harvey, who has now scored in all three games this season, and McClain’s first TD pass, a 25-yarder to Javon Baker. It was Baker’s first touchdown reception of the season and seventh of his career.

Harvey struck again to open the scoring in the second half with a 24-yard touchdown run. He paced a potent ground attack with 85 yards on 14 carries. As a team, the Knights rushed for 251 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per attempt.

McClain threw 36 yards to Jaylon Griffin for the Knights’ final tally. Griffin caught three passes for 50 yards.

Kobe Hudson was the top target for UCF. The senior transfer from Auburn hauled in a career-high 147 receiving yards on six receptions, resetting the personal mark he established just a week ago with 134 yards at Boise State.

How good is the Knights’ offense? It leads the nation after three games. UCF averages 617.7 yards per game, a full 3 yards better than second-place Washington (614.7), and a whopping 37 yards better than third-place USC (580.7).

But don’t overlook the Knights’ defense. On Saturday it shut out Villanova through three quarters and still hasn’t allowed a touchdown in either the second or third quarters this season. UCF is one of just 10 Power 5 teams to hold opponents under 16 points in each of its first three games so far this season.

Josh Celiscar and Jason Johnson led the Knights on Saturday with six tackles apiece. John Walker recorded a career-best four tackles, two for loss.

Matthew Alexander turned in his first career sack in his first career start, and Tre’mon Morris-Brash added a sack and two tackles for loss.

Nickai Martinez also enjoyed a first. He pulled down his first career interception, and returned it 42 yards. The Knights have intercepted opposing quarterbacks in each of the first three games this season.

Now they hope to keep those streaks going as conference play begins. The Knights take their potent offense and stingy defense to Manhattan, Kansas, next Saturday for an 8 p.m. kickoff against Kansas State in the program’s first Big XII game. The 2-1 Wildcats are coming off a heartbreaking last-second 30-27 loss at Missouri.

UCF will be looking to start the season 4-0 for the first time since the undefeated regular season of 2018.

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