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UCF continues to struggle on road with loss at Texas Tech

LUBBOCK, Texas — If UCF is going to be successful in the Big 12, the Knights will have to find a way to win on the road.

UCF (5-6, 2-6 Big 12) lost its fourth conference road game as Texas Tech (6-5, 5-3 Big 12) rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to win 24-23 at Jones AT&T Stadium Saturday night.

“You’ve got to play good on the road in this league,” said coach Gus Malzahn. “This is our sixth road trip of the year and give Texas Tech credit; they found a way to win. Our guys battled hard and statistically we were better but didn’t find a way to win the game.”

It was another example of missed opportunities for the Knights, who had an extra point blocked late in the game, costing them a chance at tying with 5:30 left. The team also missed an opportunity before the half to retake the lead but couldn’t convert.

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UCF had the ball on the Texas Tech 5-yard line with 12 seconds left and no timeouts heading into halftime, but the Knights elected for a John Rhys Plumlee shovel pass to running back RJ Harvey, who was stopped short of the end zone as time expired.

“It wasn’t a very good play; there’s no doubt about that,” said Malzahn. “We’ve got to just get outside and throw it. It’s what we get to do. Letting the clock run out is not good and was a big play in the game.”

A week after holding Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon II to just 25 rushing yards, UCF’s defense had no answers for containing Red Raiders running back Tahj Brooks, who finished with a season-high 182 yards on 24 carries for a 7.6 yards-per-carry average. It was the fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game for the senior.

“He just runs hard,” said linebacker Walter Yates III. “He was a bigger back and his running style was way different from the dude from last week.”

Brooks’ 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter pushed Texas Tech into its first lead of the game at 21-14.

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The Red Raiders pushed their lead to 24-17 with 6:13 left in the fourth quarter before Plumlee found receiver Javon Baker, who raced 71 yards for the score. On the ensuing extra point, TTU defensive tackle E’Maurion Banks blocked Colton Boomer’s kick. It was the first blocked extra point against the Knights since Oct. 2, 2021, against Navy.

“You could feel a little bit of the momentum there,” said Malzahn. “And then we have a blocked extra point and you just can’t do that. Not on the road.”

Boomer was involved in a fake field goal in the first quarter that sparked the offense.

UCF lined up for what appeared to be a 43-yard field goal attempt, but holder Mitch McCarthy took the snap and tossed the ball to the sophomore kicker, who raced 24 yards to the Texas Tech 4. Harvey eventually plunged into the end zone for the score.

The Knights finished with a game-high 487 yards of offense but also had eight penalties for 64 yards and failed to register a sack for the first time all season.

Plumlee finished 16 of 32 for 249 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Harvey was coming off a career-high 206 yards against Oklahoma State last week but had just 78 yards on 20 carries Saturday night. It was the first time he failed to crack 100 rushing yards in a game since the Baylor loss on Sept. 30.

UCF returns home to host its regular-season finale against Houston on Saturday. The Knights need a win against the Cougars to be bowl-eligible for the eighth straight season.

Email Matt Murschel at moc.lenitnesodnalro@lehcsrumm or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.

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