ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Florida Sports Wire) –– Sophomore QB Riley Leonard rolled up 236 total yards and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns as Duke capped a nine-win season by beating UCF, 30-13, in the Military Bowl Presented by Peraton on Wednesday in Annapolis, Md.
The Knights came up short of achieving their ninth 10-win season in program history, as UCF finishes the 2022 season with a 9-5 overall record while Duke concludes its campaign with a 9-4 mark.
“First of all, congratulations to Duke. They played extremely well and deserved to win the game,” said Knights head coach Gus Malzahn. “Obviously, we’re disappointed for our seniors that we couldn’t send them out with a win. They’ve done such a good job for our program, so it’s disappointing.
ACC Coach of the Year Mike Elko finished his first season at Duke with a 9-4 record and the program’s seventh bowl victory, including a current bowl winning streak of four consecutive. UCF ended its season 9-5.
Missing some key players, UCF held Duke to just seven points in the opening period as the teams were knotted at 7-7 following the first quarter of play. Duke struck first after a 14-yard touchdown run from Jaquez Moore, but UCF answered on its next drive with a 14-play drive that amassed 75 yards, ending with a one-yard TD run from running back Isaiah Bowser.
Following a pair of field goals and TD run from the Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard, Duke led 20-7 at halftime. It was just the fourth time this season that the Knights have trailed at the intermission. Thanks to a couple of long drives by the Blue Devils, UCF had just two possessions in the third quarter and was unable to turn either into points.
“When you look at the game, time of possession was very lopsided most of the game,” Malzahn added. “When we had a good drive, we fumbled and the momentum kind of left us. We weren’t very good on third downs, and we knew we had to be good on third downs against these guys and we were unable to do that.”
UCF’s defense keep the Knights in it late, as Duke punted on three consecutive drives to keep UCF within striking distance. Bowser found the end zone for the second time on the day with 9:03 remaining in the fourth quarter to make it 23-13. The score was Bowser’s 16th rushing touchdown of the season to move into second in program history for rushing TDs in a single season behind Kevin Smith, who owns the record with 29 during the 2007 season.
For just the second time this year, UCF’s offense was held to fewer than 330 yards of total offense. Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee was 21-34 for 182 yards passing and Bowser recorded 11 carries for 39 yards with a pair of scores.
Defensively, Koby Perry led the way for UCF with 10 tackles while Walter Yates tallied nine. Linebacker Jason Johnson logged seven stops in the contest to finish the season with 126 tackles, the ninth most in a single season in program history and the most by a player since 2002.
The nation’s second-leading team in turnover margin, Duke was plus-two vs. UCF with a fumble recovery and a game-sealing interception in the game’s final seconds by Chandler Rivers.