ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Riley Leonard ran for two touchdowns and passed for 173 yards as Duke’s impressive first season under Mike Elko came to an end on Wednesday at Defeated UCF 30-13 in the Military Bowl.
The Blue Devils (9-4) have won four straight bowl games, though this is their first such appearance since 2018. Jordan Moore ran for a touchdown in the first quarter, and then Duke took control of the game in the second.
UCF (9-5) has lost three of its final four games of the season. John Rhys Plumlee passed for just 28 yards in the first half and 182 for the game.
Moore scored on a 14-yard run, but Isaiah Bowser tied the game at 7 with a 1-yard touchdown for the Cavaliers. Duke took control by beating UCF 13-0 in the second quarter.
After taking the lead on a short field goal, the Blue Devils recovered Plumlee’s fumble on their own 42 yards. They rushed for 58 yards in seven plays, with Leonard scoring on a 1-yard run.
Todd Pelino scored on a 48-yard field goal to make it 20-7 at halftime.
Trailing 23-7, the Cavaliers had a good chance at a lucrative punt swap to get them back in the game after Duke 32, but UCF flipped the ball over.
“That’s a key driver. Obviously we have motivation,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “You have to score there.”
The Cavaliers finally scored again on Bowser’s 2-yard run with 9:03 left, but a 2-point conversion ruse failed.
Leonard ran for 3 yards to score with 2:29 left. He finished with a team-high 63 yards on the ground.
Duke was winless in the ACC last year, but Elko quickly turned things around and earned ACC Coach of the Year honors. It was the seventh time the Blue Devils had nine wins in a season and the first since 2014.
“This group is special, and this program is special,” Elko said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
Duke: A perfect end to a very inspiring season. The defense is especially strong against a good quarterback. The Blue Devils had six sacks.
University of California, San Francisco: Plumlee was limited by a hamstring problem when the Cavaliers lost to Tulane in the AAC championship game. It’s unclear if he’ll still feel the impact on Wednesday, but it wasn’t a good performance for an offense that typically has little problem moving the ball.
Duke: Elko and the Blue Devils clearly have a lot to build upon. They haven’t lost a game by more than eight points all season.
University of California, San Francisco: The Cavaliers are heading into the Big 12, having moved from the American Athletic League to their new league. It’s kind of fitting that their final game of the season is at Navy’s home court — an AAC team.
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NOAH TRISTER, Associated Press