ORLANDO, Fla. – Quincy McDuffie had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and scored on a 64-yard touchdown reception to help Central Florida beat East Carolina 40-20 Thursday night.
Knights quarterback Blake Bortles threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Shawn Moffitt kicked four field goals.
UCF (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) scored on eight consecutive possessions to seize control of the game, while its defense tightened and allowed only a field goal after halftime.
The Pirates (3-3, 2-1) led 14-0 early, but lost an opportunity to take control of C-USA's East Division with a favorable schedule the rest of the season against several teams in the league's bottom tier.
Quarterback Shane Carden had a rushing score and 76-yard touchdown pass, but threw an interception and was sacked twice.
It was easily UCF's offense strongest collective effort of the season. It also got a boost from the return of running back Latavius Murray, who played in his first game since suffering a shoulder injury in the season opener Aug. 30.
Meanwhile, ECU came apart on both sides of the ball, never recovering from an early momentum swing. The loss kept the Pirates from moving to 3-0 for just the third time since 2001.
ECU, which had outscored its previous two league opponents 52-32, was outscored by UCF 20-3 after halftime.
Early on it looked as if the Pirates were headed for a romp, methodically marching 75 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the night to take a 7-0 lead.
Carden was efficient in the air throughout, going 6 for 7 for 40 yards passing on the drive. ECU also converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield to keep the series alive.
It was the first time this season that the Pirates have scored first in a game. Entering Thursday, UCF's defense had also only allowed seven points all season in the first quarter.
UCF went three and out on its first touch of the night, and ECU's offense needed just one more play to put the Knights in a 14-0 hole, this time via Carden's 76-yard strike down the sideline to Justin Hardy.
The fast-paced scoring continued on the ensuing kickoff, though, when UCF's McDuffie bounced outside and got free for a 99-yard kickoff return to get the Knights back in the game.
The back-to-back scores spanned just 25 seconds.
UCF then tied it a series later on a 4-yard touchdown run by Storm Johnson.