NCAA Football

Duke contains Plumlee, beats UCF 30-13 in Military Bowl

Duke contains Plumlee, beats UCF 30-13 in Military Bowl

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Duke knocked off UCF with relative ease in the Military Bowl, completing an impressive turnaround this season.

Now quarterback Riley Leonard is talking about high hopes for the future.

“I’m the kind of guy who’s never satisfied,” he said. “I’m looking back at a nine-win season, but I’m looking at 12, 13, 14 wins in the national championship. So I’ll be looking at next year, maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”

Coach Mike Elko was a little more willing to reflect on Duke’s remarkable growth in his first season at the helm. Leonard had two touchdowns and threw for 173 yards as the Blue Devils beat UCF 30-13 on Wednesday.

Duke didn’t win an Atlantic Coast Conference game last year, but Elko quickly turned the team around, earning ACC Coach of the Year honors. The Blue Devils reached nine wins on the season for the seventh time and first since 2014.

“Couldn’t be more proud of this group,” Elko said. “From where this team and this program was walking off the field at the end of the 2021 season, to walking off the field today as the 2022 Military Bowl champion.”

The Blue Devils (9-4) have won four straight, though this was their first appearance in one since 2018. Jordan Moore fumbled for a touchdown in the first quarter, then Duke took control in the second.

UCF (9-5) has lost three of its last four games this season. John Reece Plumlee passed for just 28 yards in the first half and 182 for the game.

“We scored only 13 points. It’s all of us,” Knights coach Gus Malzahn said. “We just didn’t do it offensively.”

Moore opened the scoring with a 14-yard run, but Isaiah Bowser had a 1-yard touchdown run for the Knights to tie the game at 7. Duke outscored UCF 13-0 in the second quarter.

After the Blue Devils took the lead on a short field goal, they recovered Plumlee’s punt on their 42nd. They drove 58 yards in seven plays, and Leonard scored on a 1-yard run.

Todd Pellin’s 48-yard field goal made it 20-7 at halftime.

Down 23-7, the Knights had a good chance to get back into the game after a profitable punt exchange gave them the ball at the Duke 32, but UCF turned the ball over on downs.

“That was the key driver. Obviously, we had the momentum,” Malzahn said. “You’ve got to score right there.”

The Knights finally scored again on Bowser’s 2-yard run with 9:03 left, but the trick 2-point conversion play fell short.

Leonard capped the scoring with a 3-yard run with 2:29 to play. He finished with a team-high 63 yards on the ground.

“This group is special and this program is special,” Elka said. “Couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

CLEAN GAME: There were only four penalties in the game — and only one against Duke.

“I think it shows that during preparation they were focused when they needed to be,” Elka said. “They’re a really mature group and I think all year they’ve set their sights on what they wanted to accomplish.”

FOR TAKE AWAY

Duke: A great finish to a very encouraging season. The defense was especially strong against a good quarterback. The Blue Devils had six sacks.

UCF: Plumlee was limited by a hamstring problem in the Knights’ loss to Tulane in the AAC title game. It was hard to tell how much he was still feeling the effects Wednesday, but it wasn’t a good performance from a forward who doesn’t usually have much trouble moving the ball.

“When you struggle on offense, a lot of quarterbacks get a lot of blame and praise,” Plumlee said. “But you can’t say otherwise tonight – just not enough.”





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