NEW ORLEANS — John Rhys Plumlee accounted for 308 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 22 UCF took over first place in the American Athletic Conference with a 38-31 victory over No. 16 Tulane on Saturday.
Returning from an Oct. 29 concussion against Cincinnati, Plumlee rushed for 176 yards and two TDs. He also passed for 132 yards and a score as UCF (8-2, 5-1) surpassed 400 yards of offense for the eighth time this season.
Plumlee's rushing total was his highest with UCF but short of his career high of 212 for Mississippi against LSU in 2019.
Tulane (8-2, 5-1) pulled within a touchdown with 11:39 left when Michael Pratt hit Reggie Brown in the back of the end zone to cap a drive sustained by Pratt's fourth-and-6 conversion on a pass to Lawrence Keys.
But the Knights responded with a 16-play, 75-yard scoring drive that consumed 8:07 and was sustained by a fourth-down pass interference penalty on Tulane's Jarius Monroe on running back Isaiah Bowser's pass intended for Plumlee along the sideline. Bowser finished it off with his second short touchdown run of the game to make it 38-24 with 3:32 left.
Tulane drove for one final score on Pratt's 6-yard pass to Shae Wyatt with 1:46 left, but the Green Wave's onside kick was recovered by UCF, which didn't punt the ball back until the final seconds.
Pratt finished 23 of 39 for 236 yards and three TDs. Tulane's Jha-Quan Jackson caught five passes for 95 yards.
Plumlee helped UCF to a 10-0 lead when he kept the ball up the middle, cut outside to his right and outraced all pursuers for a 67-yard touchdown.
Tulane answered with Pratt's 1-yard fade to Duece Watts, set up by Tyjae Spears' 70-yard run.
UCF restored its 10-point lead when Bowser took a direct snap on fourth-and-1, faked left and darted right for an easy score, his 12th this season.
The Knights were threatening to go right back in the end zone after true freshman linebacker Kam Moore, making his first start in place of injured defensive captain Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, forced a fumble in the Tulane backfield that was recovered by K.D. McDaniels on the Tulane 8 and returned to the 4. But UCF came away with no points after Plumlee's fourth-down pass was batted down by linebacker Nick Anderson.
But after Tulane's offense stalled, Plumlee drove the Knights 85 yards in 13 plays to set up his 8-yard scoring pass to Alabama transfer Javon Baker, who had five catches for 54 yards.
A series of errors by UCF's defense allowed Tulane to pull to 24-14 late in the first half, starting with a third-down pass interference.
UCF responded with a sack and strip by Jason Johnson, but the ball squirted out of Johnson's grasp and Tulane recovered. Shortly after, Tulane's field goal attempt was wide, but UCF's Ja'Cari Henderson flattened Green Wave kicker Valentino Ambrosio, drawing a roughing flag.
Three plays later, Pratt scored on a keeper.
UCF: Bowser has scored in eight of 10 games this season, thanks to his reliability in short-yardage situations. All 13 of his TDs have come from inside the 4-yard line. The Knights rushed for a season-high 336 — the third time rushing for more than 300 yards this season.
Tulane: The Green Wave was hurt by mistakes, not to mention some bad luck. There were a handful of dropped passes, including one in the end zone on third down by Dea Dea McDougle. Pratt missed some open receivers and Tulane turned the ball over when a UCF punt hit the Green Wave's Kiland Harrison in the back as he tried to block for the return along the sideline. It also was the first game in which Tulane allowed more than 200 yards rushing this season.
UCF: Hosts Navy on Nov. 19.
Tulane: Hosts SMU on Thursday night.