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GAMEDAY College Football

American Athletic Conference Championship: Tulane 45, Central Florida 28

By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS - Michael Pratt accounted for 442 total yards and five touchdowns, Tyjae Spears highlighted his 199 yards rushing with a 60-yard score and No. 18 Tulane beat No. 22 UCF 45-28 in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

The victory virtually assured Tulane (11-2) would play in the Cotton Bowl — its first major New Year’s Day bowl since the 1939 season — only one season after going 2-10. Jubilant fans stormed field as the game ended, capping a campaign that would have been hard to conceive of a year ago with an equally unthinkable celebratory scene.

Pratt passed for a career-high 394 yards, including touchdowns of 73 yards to Duece Watts, 60 and 10 yards to Shae Wyatt and 43 yards to Lawrence Keys. Pratt also ran for a pivotal 18-yard touchdown with 4:04 left.

Spears electrified the sellout crowd of 30,118 at Tulane’s cozy, on-campus Yulman Stadium with his long scoring run on which he broke two tackles near the line of scrimmage, made two other defenders miss and hurndled his own fallen teammate after cutting back inside.

The Green Wave, which earned the right to host the title game by ending Cincinnati’s 32-game home winning streak last weekend, avenged a 38-31 regular-season loss to UCF (9-4) on the same field three weeks ago.

But UCF was not quite the same team because of QB John Rhys Plumlee’s nagging hamstring injury, which appeared to rob him of the explosiveness he displayed by running for 176 yards at Tulane on Nov. 12.

Plumlee struggled so much early on that coach Gus Malzahn pulled him from the game in the second quarter favor of Thomas Castellanos. But with Tulane up 24-7 in the middle of the third quarter, Malzahn put Plumlee back in as primarily a passer — and he nearly led the Kights all the way back.

Plumlee led UCF quickly for a touchdown to make it 24-14, converting a fourth-and-10 pass along the way and capping the drive with a 17-yarder to Kobe Hudson.

Tulane responded when both UCF safeties froze on a play-fake to Spears and Pratt found Watts running free behind the defense.

UCF cut it to 31-21 when former Virginia QB RJ Harvey took a backward pass from Plumlee and launched a 49-yard TD pass to Hudson.

And the Knights got the ball right back when Spears fumbled after catching a short pass on the Green Wave 30. And Isaiah Bowser’s 10-yard run shortly after got UCF as close as 31-28 with 9:48 still to play.

But Pratt again found a way to lead the Wave down the field, connecting with Wyatt for the longer of his two touchdowns, and UCF didn’t threaten again.

THE TAKEAWAY

UCF: Knights sophomore backup QB Mikey Keene, who had come in after Plumlee injuries for comeback victories over Cincinnati and South Florida, did not dress for the game. That allowed him to retain a year of eligibility, and questions swirled over whether he intended to transfer with Plumlee expected to return next season. Plumlee finished 29 of 39 for 209 yards and one TD, but finished with minus-7 yards rushing as Tulane had six sacks.

Tulane: Tulane might have won more comfortably if not turning for two turnovers, including a lost fumble at the UCF 1 when the Wave led 24-7 in the third quarter.

SEPARATE WAYS

The next time UCF returns to New Orleans probably won’t be to play Tulane. The Knights are among three teams, along with Cincinnati and Houston, leaving the AAC for the Big 12 after the current academic year. But Big 12 teams to visit New Orleans at least once a year because the conference has a tie-in with the Sugar Bowl.

December 3, 2022


Scoring Summary
First Quarter UCFTulane
Tulane TD 7:46 Shae Wyatt 10 yard TD pass from Michael Pratt (Valentino Ambrosio Extra Point) 0 7
Tulane FG 1:01 Valentino Ambrosio 27 yard field goal 0 10
Second Quarter UCFTulane
UCF TD 6:48 Xavier Townsend 5 yard TD run (Colton Boomer Extra Point) 7 10
Tulane TD 5:00 Lawrence Keys III 43 yard TD pass from Michael Pratt (Valentino Ambrosio Extra Point) 7 17
Third Quarter UCFTulane
Tulane TD 12:09 Tyjae Spears 60 yard TD run (Valentino Ambrosio Extra Point) 7 24
UCF TD 1:53 Kobe Hudson 17 yard TD pass from John Rhys Plumlee (Colton Boomer Extra Point) 14 24
Fourth Quarter UCFTulane
Tulane TD 14:29 Duece Watts 73 yard TD pass from Michael Pratt (Valentino Ambrosio Extra Point) 14 31
UCF TD 12:26 Kobe Hudson 49 yard TD pass from RJ Harvey (Colton Boomer Extra Point) 21 31
UCF TD 9:48 Isaiah Bowser 10 yard TD run (Colton Boomer Extra Point) 28 31
Tulane TD 8:18 Shae Wyatt 60 yard TD pass from Michael Pratt (Valentino Ambrosio Extra Point) 28 38
Tulane TD 4:04 Michael Pratt 18 yard TD run (Valentino Ambrosio Extra Point) 28 45
Team Stats
  UCF Tulane
First downs 23 20
  Rushing 10 6
  Passing 13 14
  Penalty 0 0
3rd Down Efficiency 6-23, 26% 4-11, 36%
4th down efficiency 6-9, 67% 0-2, 0%
Rushes-Yards 48-145 31-254
Passing Yards 265 394
Return Yards 96 71
Completions-Attempts-Int 24-48-0 20-33-1
Sacks-Yards Lost 6-41 1-2
Punts 7 3
Fumbles Lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties - Yards 2-10 3-25
UCF Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
J. Plumlee 21 39 209 1 0
R. Harvey 1 1 49 1 0
T. Castellanos 2 8 7 0 0
Tulane Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
M. Pratt 20 33 394 4 1
UCF Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
I. Bowser 20 85 4.3 1
R. Harvey 5 34 6.8 0
J. Richardson 3 20 6.7 0
X. Townsend 2 13 6.5 1
R. O'Keefe 2 8 4.0 0
J. Plumlee 9 -7 -0.8 0
T. Castellanos 7 -8 -1.1 0
Tulane Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
T. Spears 22 199 9.0 1
M. Pratt 6 48 8.0 1
S. Clayton 1 6 6.0 0
I. Celestine 1 2 2.0 0
UCF Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
K. Hudson 4 98 24.5 2
R. O'Keefe 6 37 6.2 0
J. Baker 4 37 9.3 0
I. Bowser 2 28 14.0 0
J. Richardson 2 22 11.0 0
X. Townsend 2 19 9.5 0
R. Harvey 2 15 7.5 0
A. Holler 2 9 4.5 0
Tulane Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
D. Watts 3 134 44.7 1
S. Wyatt 5 110 22.0 2
L. Keys III 2 60 30.0 1
J. Jackson 4 40 10.0 0
T. James 1 19 19.0 0
W. Wallace 2 16 8.0 0
A. Bauman 1 9 9.0 0
S. Clayton 1 4 4.0 0
T. Spears 1 2 2.0 0
UCF Interceptions
Player Int Yards
D. Brown 1 22
Tulane Interceptions
Player Int Yards
UCF Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
M. McCarthy 7 322 46.0
Tulane Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
C. Glover 2 92 46.0
K. Esnard 1 33 33.0
UCF Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
D. Wilson 1 0 0
Tulane Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
J. Jackson 3 7 2.3
UCF Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
R. O'Keefe 3 74 24.7
Tulane Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
L. Keys III 2 64 32.0
UCF Missed FG
Player Length
Tulane Missed FG
Player Length




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