ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The Latavius Murray Show continued for the UCF football team on Homecoming with a 42-17 romp over SMU. The redshirt senior running back eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark for his career in UCF's fourth-straight win on Homecoming. The victory marked the 200th in program history for the Knights.
UCF (7-2, 5-0) continued its unblemished run in Conference USA and remains the only unbeaten team in C-USA's East Division. West Division member Tulsa is also undefeated in league play.
Murray carved up the Mustangs' (4-5, 3-2) top-ranked run defense to the tune of 23 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns. In just his 10th start as a Knight, he also chipped in with two catches and his second receiving TD of the year. Murray has now scored three total touchdowns or more in three-straight contests.
"It starts up front running the ball," Murray said about the offense's success. "The offensive line created a new line of scrimmage and they got a lot of movement. I just have to make sure I get the yards that are there, and on the big runs, I can do my job and get the extra yards that I need to get. I have to make sure I am helping the offense any way I can, whether it is receiving or running the ball."
Center Jordan Rae added about the offense: "Playing with each other throughout the year, and now it is starting to gel. That's how it should be. They always say you want to play your best football in November, and I think we are starting to do that right now. We just need to continue doing what we are doing and we will be fine."
Aside from Murray's standout performance, it was a complete effort as UCF put up 396 yards on 56 plays to SMU's 259 total yards on 60 offensive snaps. Senior DE Troy Davis set the tone early with two sacks and a forced fumble on the first defensive series of the game. As a team, the Knights closed out Saturday night with three quarterback takedowns behind the line of scrimmage. Victor Gray, Brandon Alexander and Kemal Ishmael paced the team with six tackles each.
"To be honest, it was just hard work in practice. Coach has been on us, and we have had a drought lately. We've been getting pressure, but we've been working on finishing and getting to the quarterback," Davis said of the defensive line's success. "Coming into this game we were disappointed about how they embarrassed us last year and we needed to earn our respect back, especially in front of the home crowd."
The Knights will put their perfect league record on the line next week when they travel to El Paso, Texas to take on UTEP at 7 p.m. The game will air live on Fox College Sports and on the UCF IMG Radio Network.
UCF struck first on a gorgeous 79-degree evening when quarterback Blake Bortles hooked up with sophomore wideout Rannell Hall on a quick strike down the middle for 21 yards to cap a 10-play 70-yard drive. It was Hall's team-leading fourth-touchdown reception of the year.
After SMU cut into the lead with a 32-yard field goal, UCF recovered a muffed Mustang punt on the SMU 24-yard line. Murray wasted no time, taking it to the house from 23 yards out.
SMU answered by matriculating down the field in 15 plays, as QB Garrett Gilbert maneuvered around potential sack and ran it into the end zone on third-and-goal from four yards out to make it 14-10, Knights.
Prior to halftime, Murray inflicted more damage on the Mustangs by ripping off a 29-yard scamper through the defense and followed that up with a 20-yard explosion up the middle to give him two touchdowns or more in three-straight games. The New York native also eclipsed 100 yards in the first half for the third-consecutive week, and fourth time this year.
The Knights padded their lead at the start of the second half with a five-play 55-yard TD drive that saw Bortles dive for the nearside pylon for a 10-yard score. It was the fourth rushing touchdown for the Oviedo native this year.
UCF piled on another touchdown after an SMU three-and-out with a little post-Halloween trickery as Jeff Godfrey found Murray alone in the end zone on a double pass for a 28-yard score to put the Knights up 35-10. It was the second TD pass for Godfrey this year and second TD reception for Murray.
Bortles capped his evening 10-for-15 with 110 yards passing, including a nifty 18-yard scoring toss to an outstretched Breshad Perriman. It was the first-career TD for the rookie out of Lithonia, Ga.