East Carolina UCF Football-5

East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers throws a pass to the outside against UCF on Saturday night in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers achieved his first 300-yard passing game of this season with 313 yards on Saturday night in a 41-28 loss at UCF. His previous high was 210 versus William & Mary.

What ECU coach Mike Houston thought aided in that was that Ahlers rushed for 79 yards (excluding 32 yards lost on three sacks) and that the Pirates as a team netted 170 rushing yards.

Ahlers and Demeterius Mauney, a freshman running back who was making his first start, each scored a rushing touchdown during a second half in which the visitors outscored UCF 22-6. The Knights, who ran for 197 yards on 47 carries in the game, started hot and led 35-6 at halftime.

"Mauney has ended up playing a lot and having a significant role as he continues to develop and improve in that role," Houston said. "We want a balanced offense, not only from a run-pass ratio but also for getting a lot of people involved. In the past when you look at us running this offense and James Madison, you had great balance and distribution among many players."

Mauney's TD was the first of his career, and the 20-yard TD charge by Ahlers with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter was his team-best fourth of the season. Mauney carried the ball 21 times for 74 yards. Trace Christian had 11 carries for 55 yards.

Houston also said Monday that his halftime speech was less about Xs and Os and more about getting better "between the ears" and that a blocked punt was huge for confidence.

The block came on the first UCF possession after halftime. Leroy Henley, Warren Saba and others charged straight toward freshman punter Andrew Osteen, and Henley reached out of his hand to swat the ball without diving after the punter.

Jsi Hatfield made the recovery the 1-yard line, setting up Mauney's TD.

Much like Saba said after his blocked punt at Old Dominion earlier in the year, Henley said it began with understanding the play-call.

"Coach (Roy) Tesh (special teams coordinator) called the right play and we just tried to execute. It just so happened to be me," said Henley, a reserve receiver who has played in all seven games and has four receptions for 32 yards. "It could have been any one of us. Everybody did their job and that was the result."

Houston added Monday that early in the third quarter was the right time to go after a block on Osteen.

"We try to look each week at what we think is there and what is not there and we thought we would have the opportunity because their punter had struggled against pressure this year," he said. "They had one blocked against Pittsburgh. That was very much a designed deal, we just didn't really have the opportunity in the right situation until the beginning of the third quarter."

UCF scored a touchdown on each of its first five drives before one punt late in the second quarter.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.