MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Two UCF touchdowns in 9 seconds late in the fourth quarter Saturday gave the Knights a come from behind 24-17 victory over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
The scores came in unusual ways as lineman Chris Martin recovered a fumble in the end zone with 2:05 left for UCF (4-1, 1-0 AAC) to tie the game at 17.
On the ensuing kickoff, Memphis returner Marquis Warford fumbled when he was tackled by UCF’s William Stanback. Drico Johnson grabbed the ball and ran 12 yards for the Knights’ 24-17 lead.
Memphis’ Joe Craig returned the next kickoff almost 100 yards for an apparent score, but it was nullified by a holding penalty. The Tigers (1-3, 0-1) then marched to the UCF 6 before a halfback pass by Brandon Hayes was intercepted in the end zone by linebacker Terrance Plummer, ending the Tigers threat.
Plummer’s interception was his second in the game, both in the end zone thwarting potential Tiger scores.
Memphis managed 397 yards of offense as quarterback Paxton Lynch was 20-of-38 for 279 yards. UCF, which was coming off a 28-25 loss to No. 13 South Carolina last week, was held to 270 yards. The Knights entered the game averaging 450 yards a game.
UCF quarterback Blake Bortles was 17-of-36 for 160 yards. Bortles did not throw a touchdown pass, ending his streak of 12 straight games.
Memphis had taken the 17-10 lead on a 13-yard run from Sam Craft with 12:59 left in the game and appeared to be dominating the Knights until the final minutes.
Trailing 17-10, UCF faced fourth-and-10 at the Memphis 28. Bortles hit Breshad Perriman for 16 yards, moving the Knights to the Memphis 12. Bortles hit Rannell Hall for 11 on the next play, giving UCF first-and-goal at the Memphis 1.
Storm Johnson tried to go over from the 1, but fumbled at the goal line. Martin fell on the bouncing ball and was given credit for the touchdown, tying the game at 17.
That started the wild finish.
Memphis, which held a 7-3 lead at the break, wasted no time getting on the board, putting together a 67-yard drive on its first possession, the final 16 covered by Hayes. Lynch, who was 3 of 4 passing in the drive, completed a 26-yard pass to tight end Alan Cross on the play prior to Hayes’ touchdown.
The Knights benefitted from an interception by Jacoby Glenn, who returned the pick 33 yards to the Memphis 29. The Knights were hurt by a block in the back penalty on the opening play, and eventually settled for a 26-yard field goal from Shawn Moffitt.
That was the extent of the scoring as the defenses stiffened. Memphis was able to muster 119 yards of offense after its initial drive, and reached the Knights 8 late in the half. But Lynch’s pass was picked off in the end zone Plummer.
Lynch was 11 of 20 before halftime for 144 yards, but also threw the two interceptions.
Meanwhile, UCF’s offense was limited to only 95 yards in the first half. Bortles, who entered the game connecting on almost 71 percent of his passes, was 8 of 19 for 40 yards. He was the victim of several drops and overthrew other receivers.
The Knights offense looked much better to open the second half as Johnson’s rushing and Bortles’ passing contributed to a 91-yard drive that took 12 plays. The final yard was covered by Stanback and the drive almost doubled the UCF offense.
Memphis would answer with a 48-yard field goal from Jake Elliot and the teams were knotted at 10 entering the fourth quarter.