GREENVILLE — Darriel Mack Jr. stepped in for Heisman Trophy hopeful McKenzie Milton and rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, and No. 10 UCF forced five turnovers in beating East Carolina 37-10 for its 20th straight victory.
Nate Evans returned a fumble 94 yards for a momentum-changing touchdown with 10:07 left, Greg McCrae added a 74-yard TD run and the Knights (7-0, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) turned all those takeaways into 24 points.
UCF — which was outgained 496-427 — went up 20-3 by scoring on four consecutive possessions in the second quarter, then made it a full-fledged rout with those late big plays.
Receiver Quadry Jones threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Killins on a trick play, and Matthew Wright kicked three field goals for the Knights.
With Milton sitting this one out while in full uniform from the sideline, Mack was 12 of 20 for 69 yards but was more dangerous with his legs, rushing 7 yards for an early touchdown.
Freshman Holton Ahlers was 29 of 53 for 406 yards with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Trevon Brown, and added 69 yards rushing in his first start. But his fumble while attempting a jump pass inside the 5-yard line was returned by Evans for the game-sealing score.
The Pirates (2-5, 0-4) have lost three straight and four of five. Jake Verity put ECU up 3-0 midway through the first with a 34-yard field goal.
UCF: The big question in the aftermath of this one centered on Milton, after the quarterback said earlier in the week that he tweaked his ankle while scoring the go-ahead touchdown a week earlier at Memphis. The Knights missed him perhaps more than the final score would indicate — ECU was on the verge of making this a one-score game with 10 minutes left before Evans’ fumble return. Now UCF has an open week to get him closer to 100 percent before a visit to dangerous Temple — which took down No. 20 Cincinnati on Saturday.
East Carolina: The Pirates lost their sixth straight against Top 25 opponents, haven’t beaten one since 2014 and haven’t knocked off a top-10 team in a decade. But this one didn’t feel like so many of the others — and not necessarily because the Knights weren’t at full strength. This was a measurable sign of progress, because each of ECU’s previous four ranked opponents hung at least 60 points on them.
UCF: Has an open weekend before trying for their 21st consecutive victory on Nov. 1 against Temple.
East Carolina: Also has no game until playing host to Memphis on Nov. 3.