In the much anticipated the first ever game of the Josh Heupel era the UCF Knights brought their “A” game. The Knights offense racked up 652 yards of total offense, the defense came away with three turnovers, and UCF laid a 56-17 beatdown on UConn Thursday night at Rentschler Field.
“I thought we came out and played really well in all three phases,” Heupel said. “I talked about adversity a lot with the guys over the last eight months, and they handled it so well. It’s a very mature group that woke up ready to play. I’m really proud of what they’ve done here. Our goal was to go 1-0, and that’s what we did here.”
Quarterback McKenzie Milton got his #HIsman campaign off to a solid start, throwing for 346 yards and five touchdowns. It was the ninth 300-yard passing game of Milton’s career and the fifth time he’s thrown for four touchdowns or more.
The offense was ridiculously efficient. UCF scored in 2 minutes, 39 seconds or less on each of its scoring drives. The Knights scored on 8-of-9 offensive possessions (not including running the clock out at the end of each half). The Knights put up 14 points in each quarter.
“When your players are executing very well, it can go fast,” Heupel said. “We’re not in a race or anything else, just trying to go 1-0. When the tempo provides an opportunity for us, we’re going to use it. The kids have handled it and grasped onto it very well.”
Wide receiver Tre Nixon had a great Knights’ debut. He hauled in five passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Greg McCrae, Otis Anderson and Gabriel Davis also caught touchdown passes, while Anderson, Adrian Killins Jr. and Darriel Mack Jr. each reached paydirt on the ground as well.
Defensively, the Knights bent a bit, but didn’t break. UCF held UConn to just 17 points, despite the Huskies holding the ball for 38:08 and tallying 486 yards of offense.
The Knights created three turnovers, as well. The first turnover came on the opening possession of the contest with UConn at the Knights’ 36-yard line, when senior linebacker Pat Jasinski forced a fumble and junior defensive back Richie Grant recovered. Grant tallied the second takeaway as well. With UConn at the UCF 25-yard line and the Knights holding a 28-10 lead, Grant stepped in front of a David Pindell pass to end the threat.
Jasinski led the way with 11 tackles. Savage Pat also broke up a pass and forced a fumble. Sophomore linebacker Eric Mitchell added 10 stops and sophomore safety Antwan Collier made nine stops in the first half alone.
The Knights will return home and host South Carolina State next Saturday at 6 p.m.