MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UCFAthletics.com) -Latavius Murray made his first start since the season-opener Saturday night at Memphis. He made his presence at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium felt right away. His 83-yard, first-quarter touchdown run was the second longest run from scrimmage in UCF history and it put the Knights up 14-0.
UCF opened the scoring with a nine-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that also featured plenty of Murray. The senior running back accounted for the final 72 yards (61 rushing, 11 receiving) of the possession. Murray ripped off a 50-yard burst and also capped the drive with a 1-yard scoring plunge during the drive, which put UCF on top 7-0.
Murray's first-quarter effort and an opportunistic Knights' defense led UCF (5-2, 3-0 C-USA) to a 35-17 victory. The UCF defense forced three Memphis turnovers and held the Tigers (1-6, 1-2) to 4-of-16 on third-down conversion opportunities.
"I think (turnovers were) the difference in the game tonight," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "Defensively, we made some plays. We got some quick three-and-outs that kept us in good field position."
By the end of the first quarter, Murray had rushed for 149 yards and two scores on just nine carries. Murray finished his night with 192 yards on 23 carries, which gave him the 12th-best single-game rushing output in UCF history.
"The line was doing their job up front," Murray said. "On those two runs that I broke long on, I just made sure that I hit it and got what was there. I felt good to be out there. That first quarter, those runs we had ... we just need to pick it up in the second half and play a full game like that."
Memphis finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, when Tyler Spurlock converted a 34-yard field goal to pull the Tigers within 14-3. The Tigers made it 14-10 when Robert Steeples returned a UCF fumble 27 yards for a score.
J.J. Worton gave the Knights some breathing room with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter. He took a pass over the middle from quarterback Blake Bortles and raced untouched to the end zone to put UCF on top 21-10. The 29-yard TD pass capped a 61-yard drive that was set up by an A.J. Bouye interception.
Bouye came up big for the UCF defense early in the fourth quarter as well. Memphis completed a pass inside the UCF 25-yard line, but Clayton Geathers stripped Keiwone Malone. Bouye scooped up the loose ball at the 21-yard line and raced 79 yards to give the Knights a 28-10 lead.
UCF wrapped up its scoring when Bortles found tight end Justin Tukes wide open for a six-yard touchdown with 4:18 remaining in the contest. Memphis added a score with less than one minute remaining in the contest to account for the final tally.
Bortles finished the game 15-of-26 for 122 yards and two scores. Worton was UCF's leading receiver with five catches for 56 yards and a score. Clayton Geathers led the way for the Knights' defense, matching his career-high with 13 total tackles. Kemal Ishmael added 10 stops for UCF, as well.
The Knights are back in action again next Saturday night at Marshall.