ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — East Carolina’s football season was slipping away quickly, but the Pirates put on the brakes and righted the ship Thursday night against winless Central Florida.
East Carolina quarterback Blake Kemp threw for 448 yards and four touchdowns, both career-highs, as the Pirates routed UCF 44-7.
Isaiah Jones caught 13 passes from Kemp for a career-best 164 yards and two touchdowns as the Pirates (5-6, 3-4 American) snapped a three-game losing streak. Chris Hairston picked up 123 yards rushing and scored once.
"I had a lot of fun out there tonight," Kemp said. "I was really relaxed and had plenty of time to feel out what their defense was trying to do. Our offensive line did a great job protecting me."
UCF (0-11, 0-7) got an 11-yard touchdown pass from Justin Holman to TreQuan Smith on its first possession of the game, but didn’t score, or even threaten to score, the rest the of the game. The Knights had only 229 yards total offense in the game and just 66 in the second half.
"This was a good one for us," Pirates linebacker Zeek Bigger, who had eight tackles, including one for a loss, as ECU swarmed the UCF offense the entire night. "We came in here and played like we were supposed to play. We’re a good football team, but we hurt ourselves with little mistakes the last three games. We cleared all that up tonight."
Kemp had 260 yards and three touchdown passes in the first half when ECU set the tone for the game with scoring drives of 93, 81 and 71 yards. The Pirates rolled on both sides of the football for all but the first possession of the game.
East Carolina’s offense, which had averaged just 11 points and 313 yards a game during the losing streak, rolled up 605 yards against the defenseless Knights. ECU had five touchdowns and field goals of 44, 36 and 36 yards from Davis Plowman.
However, Jones had touchdown receptions of 18 and 61 yards called back because of penalties and Hairston had a 51-yard scoring run called back because of holding. The Pirates were penalized 11 times for 90 yards.
UCF gave the few spectators at Bright House Network Stadium a moment of hope, going 71 yards for a touchdown the first time they had the ball. Holman hit tight end Jordan Franks with a 44-yard bomb to set up Smith’s touchdown reception.
East Carolina responded with five scoring drives and a 31-7 halftime advantage.
Kemp had his choice of receivers on nearly every passing play, hitting 20 of 30 passes for 260 yards and three scores in the half. He was never sacked and seldom distracted by the Knights lethargic pass rush in the first half.
The lack of pressure allowed Pirates’ receivers to run free in the UCF secondary and Jones took advantage, grabbing six passes for 109 yards and a score in the half.
By halftime, the Pirates had 19 first downs, scoring drives of 93, 81 and 71 yards and a 24-point lead.
UCF’s offense, meanwhile, was stagnant. The Knights gained only 92 yards on their last seven possessions of the half, lost a fumble and Holman had a pass intercepted. The UCF quarterback limped off the field late in the second quarter after getting hit while attempting a pass.
His replacements, Tyler Harris and Bo Schneider, fared worse. They combined for 2-for-15 passing for just 21 yards.
"I’m disappointed we didn’t compete," UCF interim head coach Danny Barrett said. "There were too many missed tackles and easy scores. Those guys (East Carolina) were a little more hungry than we were to finish off the game."