ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — When Central Florida had its most success last season, it typically came when it controlled the line of scrimmage and was able to capitalize on its opponent’s mistakes.
The Knights did a better job at both at times during their 41-7 thumping of Bethune-Cookman University on Saturday. But there still some tweaks coach George O’Leary would like to see before his team opens American Athletic Conference play in two weeks.
The Knights (1-2) trailed 7-3 late in the first quarter before ending the game with 38 unanswered points. It was their seventh consecutive win over the Wildcats. UCF is now 20-0 against FCS foes since moving up to FBS in 1996.
“We started off a little sluggish on offense in the first quarter, and even in the first half,” O’Leary said. “We came out and did a much better job. There was a lot more flow in the second half offensively… I thought we started controlling the line of scrimmage, which I think was the difference in the second half.”
In his second start, sophomore quarterback Justin Holman reverted back to some of the accuracy issues that prevented him from being named the starter for the Knights season opener. But he recovered to finish 6 of 11 for 145 yards with a pair of touchdown passes, before ending his night after three quarters.
He said his individual game, too, is a work in progress.
“I felt like I got better in some areas, and declined in some,” Holman said. “The goal is to get better every week.”
Holman will have to get by without one of his starting receivers against Houston in two weeks, though.
Rannell Hall was ejected in the fourth quarter after being called for targeting while attempting to make a block. By rule he must miss the first half of UCF’s next game on Oct. 2.
Bethune-Cookman (2-1) was trying to become the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team to defeat two FBS schools in the same season.
But the Wildcats offense struggled from the second quarter on, converting on just 3 of 13 attempts on third down, and giving up six sacks. They also were plagued by a season-high 17 penalties.
Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins declined to comment after the game, and no Wildcats players were made available.
They host Florida Tech next Saturday.
The game kicked off with soggy conditions and a penalty on Bethune for not wearing white jerseys as the visiting team.
The conditions and atypical start affected the early gameplay, as both teams struggled to move the ball early.
But UCF survived the sloppy play and was able to take a 20-7 lead into the break.
The Knights got on the board first with an early field goal lead, before a pair of defensive penalties helped set up 1-yard touchdown run by Bethune’s Danny Jordan to put the Wildcats in front 7-3.
It was short-lived momentum, as UCF defense used five first-half sacks to put the offense in better situations in the second quarter.
Holman took advantage, first by connecting with J.J. Worton for a 35-yard touchdown, and later finding Breshad Perriman for a 61-yard strike.
The five first-half sacks were a season high for the Knights.
B-CU held the ball nearly eight more minutes that the Knights in the opening 30 minutes, but were 0 for 7 on third down.
“We needed it. We needed to get in that win column,” UCF senior linebacker Terrance Plummer said. “We need that confidence going into conference with our first game coming up against Houston. We were supposed to win. We were supposed to go out there and dominate.
“I’m glad we were able to do that. Get a little confidence booster and get ready for conference.”
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