NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Darriel Mack Jr. threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score, Dillon Gabriel threw a touchdown pass and Central Florida held off Tulane 34-31 on Saturday to keep its hopes for a third straight American Athletic Conference championship alive.
Tulane scored 24 second-half points and closed to the final tally after UCF recovered an onside kick.
The Knights (8-3, 5-2) entered having lost three games by a combined seven points but jumped to a 10-0 lead after Dylan Barnas’s 35-yard field goal and Gabriel’s 23-yard scoring pass to Marlon Williams (nine catches for 119 yards). Otis Anderson’s 44-yard scoring run put the Knights up 17-7 at halftime.
Mack scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter and his 2-yard pass to Anthony Roberson gave the Knights a 31-17 lead before Barnas kicked what proved to be the winning 26-yard field goal.
Stephon Huderson returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score for Tulane (6-5, 3-4). Corey Dauphine ran for two TDs and the Green Wave closed to 34-24 after his 7-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
After stopping the Knights on downs, Tulane’s Justin McMillan threw a 7-yard TD pass to Jalen McCleskey on fourth-and-goal with 26 seconds to play and UCF recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal it.
Gabriel was 24 of 46 for 317 passing yards for UCF.
McMillan was 13 of 27 for 181 yards passing and rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries for Tulane.