No. 22 Central Florida dominates ECU

Defensive woes continue for Pirates, who allow 600 yards

East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery, pictured against Temple, has lost 10 of the last 11 at the helm of the Pirates. (James Guillory / USA TODAY Sports)

No. 22 Central Florida scored in every phase of the game, nine players found the end zone and the impressive Golden Knights cruised past East Carolina 63-21 on Saturday night at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

McKenzie Milton completed 21 of 27 passes for 324 yards with two touchdowns in just three quarters. Mike Hughes returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and defensive back Tre Neal scored on an interception return as the Knights improved to 5-0.

It’s the first 5-0 start for UCF since 1988, when the Golden Knights were playing in Division II.

These two American Athletic Conference programs are headed in opposite directions. The Pirates (1-6, 1-3) have dropped three in a row and 10 of 11 dating to last season under second-year coach Scottie Montgomery.

UCF (5-0, 3-0), on the other hand, is moving up the list of contenders to represent the Group of Five conferences in a New Year’s Day bowl.

Coach Scott Frost’s Knights have yet to be tested, winning their first five games by an average margin of 33.8 points. In the process, Frost has emerged as the hottest name in coaching and is considered a top candidate for any Power Five conference job openings.

For now, though, the former Oregon offensive coordinator has the Golden Knights playing at an elite level.

UCF is one of only three teams to be ranked in the top 11 in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The other two teams are No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Washington.

Milton, Adrian Killins, Taj McGowan, Noah Vedral and Greg McRae each had rushing touchdowns, and Jamiyus Pittman and Jordan Akins caught touchdown passes for the Golden Knights, who finished with 600 total yards and scored their most points since 2001.

Thomas Sirk started at quarterback for East Carolina but was replaced in the third quarter by Gardner Minshew. Sirk finished 9 of 21 for 91 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Minshew had a touchdown pass to Tahj Deans in the fourth quarter.

One week after racking up 51 points and more than 500 yards of offense in three quarters against Cincinnati, UCF got off to another sizzling start.

Milton threw two first-half touchdowns, including a 48-yard bomb to Akins on the fourth play of the game. Milton also rushed for a touchdown.

Neal returned an interception of Sirk 50 yards for a touchdown that put UCF in command, up 35-7 midway through the second quarter.

Sirk threw touchdown passes Davon Grayson and Deondre Farrier in the first half, but East Carolina couldn’t keep pace with UCF, which had 392 yards in the first half.

McGowan capped a six-play, 75-yard drive in the final two minutes of the first half with a 4-yard touchdown run that sent the Knights into the locker room comfortably in front 42-14.

NOTES: Central Florida punted for the first time in five quarters, with Mac Loudermilk booting two 51-yarders. Loudermilk did not put in last week’s win over Cincinnati. … RB Darius Pinnix had a 57-yard, tackle-breaking run in the first quarter to set up East Carolina‘s first score. … UCF entered the game leading the nation in scoring, averaging 47.5 points per game. … UCF hits the road to take on Navy next week. East Carolina steps out of conference play to host BYU.