ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) UCF’s defense came up with a pair of late fourth down stops, helping the Knights hold on for a 20-13 American Athletic Conference victory over Tulane on Saturday.
The Knights (4-2, 2-0 AAC) survived four turnovers and late penalties to preserve the win.
Both sides were sloppy on offense, combining for six turnovers. UCF quarterback Justin Holman had a 45-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, but was intercepted twice by Tulane (2-5, 1-2).
It was enough for UCF coach George O’Leary to pull him in favor of Nick Patti in the second quarter. The change lasted three series, before Holman was reinserted to begin the second half.
In his second straight start at quarterback, Tulane’s Nick Montana finished 18 for 42 for 147 yards and two interceptions. Most of the Green Wave’s offensive damage was done on the ground led by Lazedrick Thompson, who rushed for 63 yards and a score.
Tulane pulled within seven via Thompson’s 9-yard touchdown run with 11:36 to play in the game.
UCF picked up a first down on its next touch, but was eventually forced to punt it back to the Green Wave with 7:28 remaining.
Tulane took over and drove inside UCF’s 30 before Thompson was driven back on his run on fourth down.
UCF punted again, giving the Green Wave offense another chance to tie it up with 2:03 left. But the Knights defense held for a second straight time, knocking down Nick Montana’s fourth down pass.
O’Leary said earlier in the week that he thought about pulling Holman in the Knights comeback win over BYU last week because of his consistency issues. But in the end, he decided to stick with him.
He made the move this time, though, after just a 3-for-8 start for Holman through the air on Saturday, which also included an interception on the Knights’ first offensive series.
Both offenses were out of sync at the outset, before Tulane was able to turn a UCF fumble into a 21-yard Andrew DiRocco field goal on the game’s sixth offensive series.
UCF had little traction on the ground or in the air, going interception, punt, fumble, punt on its first four series. That stagnation prompted O’Leary to insert Patti after a poor Tulane snap over the head of the Green Wave’s Peter Picerelli on a punt set the Knights up on the Tulane 15.
But Patti’s initial drive was a disaster, going backward 15 yards before being salvaged by 47-yard Shawn Moffitt field goal that tied the game at 3.
Following a Tulane, punt, O’Leary stayed with Patti, but put the ball in Stanback’s hands on eight of the next 12 plays. His final rush – a 1-yard touchdown plunge – put the Knights in front for the first time. Patti was more efficient passing, though, connecting on all three of his attempts.
With under a minute to play in the half and trailing 13-3, the Green Wave moved all the way down to the UCF 27, but would turn it over on downs on an inadvertent spike by Montana on a fourth and 1.