TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alec Holler made a leaping, one-handed catch for a touchdown on a 14-yard pass from Mikey Keene with 20 seconds remaining to lead No. 25 UCF to a 46-39 win over South Florida on Saturday night and earn a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Keene completed a 41-yard pass to Javon Baker for a first down at the South Florida 29. Keene added a 10-yard run on a keeper to get the ball to the Bulls’ 15 and set up Holler’s leaping, twisting game-winning grab for UCF (9-3, 6-2 AAC).
South Florida (1-11, 0-8) got the ball to the UCF 32, but the Bulls’ last-ditch attempt went out of the end zone.
UCF will play at No. 19 Tulane (10-2, 7-1) in the AAC title game on Saturday.
UCF scored on its first four possessions of the game to take a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter. But South Florida stormed back, scoring 22 points in a 3:44 span of the third quarter to pull within 31-29, forcing two turnovers to set up touchdowns.
South Florida even took a 39-38 lead with 7:02 remaining in the game when Bulls quarterback Bynum Brown reeled off a 42-yard TD run off an option keeper.
The Knights answered with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Keene throwing a 4-yard touchdown to Kobe Hudson to make it 38-29. Keene was 15 of 19 for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
UCF starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee had eight carries for 133 yards and a touchdown before he left the game with a pulled hamstring. He was also 9-for-9 passing for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Brown threw for 140 yards and rushed for 109 and a touchdown. Brian Battie rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulls.
UCF: Plumlee’s health will be a big factor going into next week’s AAC title against No. 19 Tulane in New Orleans. Keene’s experience coming off the bench proved key to another late win for the Knights. UCF, which won six straight against rival USF, will head to the Big 12 next season.
South Florida: The Bulls will be looking for a new coach in the offseason after Jeff Scott was fired on Nov. 6. Whoever takes over could inherit some young talent on offense, especially Brown — as long as he and others decide not to enter the transfer portal.
UCF: Will play at No. 19 Tulane (10-2, 7-1) in the AAC Championship Game next Saturday.
South Florida: Season is over.