ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) It may or may not be a rivalry game, but UConn made Saturday's game with Central Florida a definite streak-buster as the Huskies smashed the Knights 40-13 in an American Athletic Conference game.
Bryan Shirreffs threw for 256 yards and a touchdown and ran for another, and Arkeel Newsome rushed for two more scores as the Huskies (3-3 1-1) snapped a three-game losing streak while keeping the Knights (0-6, 0-2) winless.
During the offseason, UConn coach Bob Diaco experienced some Internet backlash for attempting to upgrade this two-game series into a full-fledged rivalry, even creating a trophy that sat on the Huskies' sidelines. UCF wanted no part of the rivalry, saying its official rivalry is with nearby South Florida.
The injury-riddled UCF offense - the Knights entered the game ranked 127th in the nation in total offense - kept the game from being closely competitive. Justin Holman, who was released by doctors last week after breaking a finger on his throwing hand against Stanford, was picked off three times and had numerous passes dropped, while the running game managed just 60 yards.
Meanwhile, Shirreffs posted his fourth 200-yard passing game in his first six career starts despite being sacked five times. He also took advantage of the short field set up by UCF turnovers - three Huskies scoring drives started within the UCF 35.
Shirreffs generated two scores in the final 57 seconds of the first half that helped the Huskies turn a 9-3 lead into a 22-3 advantage. Shirreffs plowed in on a one-yard keeper two plays after Jhavon Williams' 19-yard interception put the ball on the UCF 9, then, after an Obi Melifonwu interception, Shirreffs connected with Noel Thomas for a 16-yard touchdown with 49 seconds left in the half.
Ron Johnson and Newsome (84 yards on 13 carries) scored in the third quarter as the Huskies, who had only averaged 15.8 points per game coming into Saturday, extended their lead to 40-3. Newsome's touchdown was set up when Ellis Marder recovered a fumbled punt return on the UCF 16.
The Knights took a 3-0 lead on Matthew Wright's 19-yard field goal on the game's first possession, but managed just 56 total yards of offense the rest of the first half.
UCF's struggles were best summarized after Newsome's 5-yard touchdown gave UConn a 7-3 lead with 6:02 remaining. On the ensuing kickoff, UCF returner Hayden Jones ran one yard out of the end zone, then stepped back into the end zone and took a knee, resulting in a safety.
Holman finished 27 of 50 for 255 yards with an 11-yard touchdown to Nick Patti with 1:38 remaining.