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UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee sparks Knights to blowout win over Kent State

It was far from a perfect performance, but UCF was efficient in its season opener, rolling past Kent State, 56-6 Thursday night at FBC Mortgage Stadium.

The win was the perfect way for the Knights to start their first season in the Big 12 vs. a nonconference opponent.

Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee accounted for four touchdowns but had three turnovers as UCF (1-0, 0-0 Big 12) amassed 723 yards of offense against the Golden Flashes (0-1, 0-0 MAC). It was the most yards in a game since the Knights totaled 737 yards against Temple on Oct. 13.

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel
UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumee leaps over Kent State defenders during the Kent State at UCF football game at FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando on Thursday, August 312, 2023. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)
UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumee leaps over Kent State defenders in Thursday’s season-opening win at FBC Mortgage Stadium (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

It was the eighth consecutive season-opening win for the Knights, who last lost an opener in 2015.

UCF was 35.5-point favorites heading into the game and the Knights didn’t disappoint, building up a 33-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter. The defense held Kent State in check throughout the night, holding the Golden Flashes to 240 yards of total offense.

Next up for UCF is a trip to Boise State on Sept. 9 in what is expected to be a crucial early-season nonconference showdown. The Broncos were picked to win the Mountain West Conference with 14 starters returning from a team that finished 10-4 in 2022.

The Knights open their Big 12 schedule on the road against Kansas State on Sept. 23.



Plumlee: The quarterback went 22 of 30 passing for 281 yards, and three TDs but threw two interceptions and fumbled. He rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown.

Xavier Townsend: The receiver had 81 yards receiving on 5 catches, including a 9-yard TD catch in the first quarter.

Josh Celiscar: The defensive end had 7 tackles including 1.5 for loss.

Kent State

Michael Alaimo: The quarterback went 12 of 31 passing for 145 yards with an interception.

Devin Nicholson: The linebacker led the Golden Flashes with 12 tackles and two for loss.

Andrew Glass: The kicker connected on field-goal attempts of 45 and 43 yards but missed a 44-yarder in the second quarter.


  •  On its opening possession, UCF drove 75 yards on 12 plays, capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from  Plumlee to Townsend, who broke a tackle in the flat and scampered into the end zone. It was the sophomore’s first receiving touchdown as a Knight.
  • Defensive tackle Ricky Barber registered the first sack of the season when he took down Kent State quarterback Alaimo on a 3rd-and-9 on the Golden Flashes’ first possession of the game. It gives him 10.5 sacks for his career.
  • The first turnover came with 1:02 left in the first quarter after Plumlee fumbled trying to avoid pressure in the pocket. It was his 12th fumble at UCF and the third consecutive game going back to last season. Plumlee would later throw an interception in the second quarter.
  • UCF nickel DeJordan Mask secured an interception on a long pass by Kent State late in the second quarter. It was Mask’s fifth career interception but his first as a Knight.

Check back for more, as this is a developing story.

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


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