In likely UCF’s most-anticipated home game of the season, the Knights showed what it could do against a “name” opponent.
The 3-0 Knights left little doubt early against top-tier Pac-12 program Stanford, taking a 28-7 lead after one quarter and stretching it to 38-7 at halftime. UCF cruised to a 45-27 win that was never as close as that score indicated; the Cardinal scored on a fumble recovery against backups with two minutes left.
Six different Knights scored touchdowns, four through the air and two on the ground.
Ending a week of speculation, freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel got the start and, looking comfortable in the part, went right to work carving up Stanford’s defense.
After the defense ushered the Cardinal (1-2) off the field to start the game, Gabriel led an eight play, 77-yard drive that took under two minutes, capped with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Williams. Aaron Robinson picked off a pass on Stanford’s next drive and took it to the 1, from where Greg McCrae pounded into the end zone. UCF led 14-0 five minutes into the game and the Cardinal would never get any closer.
Gabriel finished the day 22-of-30 for 347 yards and four touchdowns, looking sharper than he did last week against Florida Atlantic.
“He played the way I expect him to play when he’s going to be the guy,” Coach Josh Heupel said of his young signal caller. “Had great command of what we’re doing and handles the tempo very well. I’m really pleased with the way he played.”
Gabriel also found Gabe Davis, Tre Nixon and Jake Hescock on TD passes, and Otis Anderson added a short touchdown run.
While this was the first time all year the first-unit defense surrendered a touchdown, Heupel had good things to say about that unit, too.
“Defensively we played assignment sound and made it uncomfortable for their quarterback all night long,” he said. “Offensive played really well, our kids played well all night long. Thought the energy from the fans was fantastic. I’m proud of the way our kids prepared and played today. We have a really good football team, but you’re only as good as your next one.”
The Knights now prepare to play at Pittsburgh, a team they dominated 45-14 at home last year, next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.