John Rhys Plumlee passed for three touchdowns and added a rushing score to lead UCF to a dominating 56-6 victory over Kent State on Thursday night in the season opener for both schools at Orlando, Fla.
Plumlee completed 22 of 30 passes for 281 yards and rushed for 90 yards on eight attempts in the nonconference contest that marked UCF’s first official game as a Big 12 program. The Knights left the American Athletic Conference.
RJ Harvey rushed for 84 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries and also had a scoring reception for UCF. Xavier Townsend had five catches for 81 yards and one touchdown, Alec Holler had a scoring grab and Johnny Richardson had 100 yards on 12 carries for the Knights.
Kent State was outgained 723 to 240 in its first game under new coach Kenni Burns. UCF had 389 rushing yards.
Mike Alaimo, a transfer from Purdue, was 12-of-31 passing for 145 yards and one interception for the Golden Flashes in his first career college start. Nick Giacolone and D.J. Miller each collected interceptions off Plumlee.
UCF outgained Kent State 357-99 in the first half while taking a 28-3 lead.
Plumlee capped a game-opening 12-play, 75-yard drive with a 9-yard scoring pass to Townsend. Plumlee tacked on a 17-yard touchdown run with 6:07 left in the quarter to make it 14-0 before Andrew Glass’s 45-yard field goal put Kent State on the board with 3:20 remaining.
Jordan McDonald scored on a 2-yard run with 8:46 left in the first half to make it 21-3. The Knights later moved 94 yards on eight plays in 66 seconds with Holler catching an 18-yard touchdown pass from Plumlee with 42 seconds left in the half.
UCF advanced 78 yards on five plays in 1:57 in its first third-quarter possession. Harvey caught Plumlee’s pass inside the Kent State 35-yard line and scampered the rest of the way for a 50-yard score to make it 35-3 with 10:37 left in the third quarter.
Harvey exploded on a 48-yard touchdown run to boost the lead to 39 with 4:07 left in the period. Glass booted a 43-yard field goal with 49 seconds remaining in the quarter to cut the Golden Flashes’ deficit to 42-6.
Mark-Antony Richards and Demarkcus Bowman tacked on rushing scores in the final stanza.