The Knights found some of the magic of the 2013 season when they took a 16-14 lead into the fourth quarter against an undefeated Temple Saturday night. Then in a flash it all went away.
Sixteen unanswered points later, UCF was handed its seventh straight loss of the season, and Temple had its sixth straight win, 30-16 in Philadelphia.
By then, the Owls had gone from bumbling to seemingly unstoppable. Two rapid fourth quarter touchdowns were capped off by two two-point conversion attempts, both successful.
For the Knights, whose offense had failed to enter the end zone all night, it was too much to overcome. Their only trip beyond the goal line all game had come two quarters earlier when Temple's P.J. Walker threw a pass right into Knights defensive back Shaquill Griffin's hands, and he grabbed that sudden momentum shift and took it 81 yards to the end zone.
It was Matthew Wright's right foot that did the rest of the scoring for the Knights, who made it to the red zone twice, and came away with only one successful field goal. But from distance Wright added two more blasts through the uprights, including a 48-yarder.
The Knights' biggest shot at taking command of the game came late in the second quarter, when, after yet another stalled drive, the Knights' Caleb Houston punted to Temple's Robby Anderson, who fumbled the ball at the UCF 20 yard line. The Knights' T.J. Mutcherson recovered, giving the Knights a drive that started in the red zone. They only came away with a field goal after coming as close as the 7-yard line. That field goal made the game 14-13 Temple.
The third quarter started off equally promising, but with the same fizzles. Hayden Jones took the kickoff for UCF and ran it 21 yards to the UCF 47. Then Holman led the Knights all the way to the Temple 24 before the drive fell apart and the Knights let Wright's foot do the work, putting the Knights up 16-13 — their first lead of the game.
But by that point the Knights' offense had only amassed 105 total yards. They would accumulate 134 total in the game.
On the very next drive, Temple's Walker fumbled the ball on the Owls' 37, recovered by UCF's Chequan Burkett. The Knights lost six yards on three rushes, with a penalty first down throw in, before Holman threw an interception that ended the drive on Temple's 25-yard line.
When the Knights got the ball back, on yet another Temple fumble recovered by Mutcherson, they would do nothing with it, thanks to a Wyatt Miller holding call that erased the Knights' most successful passing play of the game. Three plays later, UCF was punting again.
Temple's Sean Chandler, who had fumbled the ball away on the previous drive, would take the punt 65 yards to UCF's 21. Two plays later, Temple had its game-winning score on a 21-yard run. They would add another touchdown later in the fourth, then watch a futile UCF drive fall apart with an interception to end things.
The Knights, gifted four turnovers by Temple, failed to find the end zone on all but one, and in that one, Griffin did all the work himself after the interception. Three of UCF's drives, thanks to turnovers, started in Temple territory. The Knights would emerge with a field goal, an interception thrown, and a punt.
"When you get the ball in great field position, you've got to put points on the board, and we didn't get that done," UCF head coach George O'Leary told UCFKnights.com after the game.
Three of Temple's four trips to the red zone resulted in touchdowns. The UCF defense would allow 361 yards by Temple — a few yards above the Owls' average per game on the season.
Holman would emerge with 67 yards in the air and 33 on the ground. His favorite target of the night was also UCF's best rusher. C.J. Jones netted 37 yards on the ground and 28 yards of receptions.
For the Knights, whose statistical shot at a bowl game berth disappears with the loss (they would have needed to win every game for the rest of the season to be eligible) they are now 0-7 and staring down possibly the toughest team they've faced all season. Houston is No. 24 in the NCAA Top 25 and 6-0 on the season, fresh off a 42-7 blowout win over Tulane — the same Tulane team that three games ago blasted UCF 45-31.
Houston is averaging 555 yards per game on offense this season, giving them the fifth best offense in the nation. Brent Key, appointed UCF offensive coordinator this year, continues to preside over the FBS's worst offense, averaging 254.4 yards per game — 35 yards per game less than the second worst, Hawaii.
The Cougars will be the second undefeated team UCF has faced, and the Knights will do it on their homecoming. The game starts at noon on Saturday, Oct. 24, in the Bright House.