UCF scored touchdowns on eight straight possessions and racked up 671 yards of total offense in a 63-7 thrashing of Bethune-Cookman on Saturday night.
The game was a far cry from a week ago when the Knights had to overcome a 21-point deficit against Boise State in a 36-31 win. This time there was no need for any dramatic comebacks, as UCF scored touchdowns on five of their first six first half possessions and led 35-7 at the half.
“We said all week, we wanted to get better,” Head Coach Gus Malzahn said after the game. “And I think we did that. We scored on nine drives and we didn’t have a turnover all night. A lot of times when you play a team with less talent, you will go out there and slop it around but we didn’t do that tonight. Other than maybe letting them convert too many third down plays, I was very pleased with the way we performed.”
UCF got off to a fast start in the game, as Johnny Richardson returned the opening kickoff 40 yards to midfield. From there, the Knights needed just four plays to go 55 yards with Isaiah Bowser covering the last 17 yards on a run to make it 7-0 Knights.
Bethune-Cookman would tie the score on Sean Patrick’s 15-yard scoring strike to Darryl Powell but from that point forward it was all UCF. The Knights would take the lead for good at 1:08 mark of the first quarter as Dillon Gabriel fired a touchdown pass to Brandon Johnson from 15 yards out. UCF upped the lead to 21-14 on their next possession, this time with Bowser bulling over from the one-yard line.
Bowser’s third rushing touchdown run of the game – again from one-yard out – made it a 28-7 game. His touchdown was set up by a beautiful 28-yard strike from Gabriel to Johnson on a fourth and 10 play from the 29.
On its next possession, a facemask penalty set UCF up at its own 40 yard line with 1:28 remaining in the half. This time, Bowser would score his fourth rushing touchdown of the game – an eight yard burst with 40 seconds remaining. Bowser, who finished the game with 59 yards and school record-tying four rushing touchdowns, did not play in the second half.
Although he was victimized by a couple of drops and also overthrew a few receivers, Gabriel put up huge numbers in the half. He completed 18 of 23 for 253 yards. He opened the second half with a 44-yard touchdown run that may have covered more than 100 yards of actual running. Starting out of the pocket on the right hash, he ran around the left end before turning it up. But rather than running out of bounds on the 30 to avoid contact, he looped back to the inside and ran all the way to the right sideline and scored. “I really wanted him to get down,” Malzahn said about the run worthy of ESPN Top 10 Play consideration. “It was spectacular though. The last time I had a quarterback make a play like that his name was Cam Newton.”
After a Deveano Ellington touchdown pass made it 42-14, Gabriel guided the Knights on a seventh consecutive touchdown drive, this time finding back-up running back Trillion Coles on a 15-yard screen pass to make it 49-14. It would be the last action of the night for Gabriel, who finished the game 25 of 38 for 322 yards and two touchdowns to go with his long rushing touchdown.
The UCF offensive onslaught did not end when Gabriel exited, however.
True freshman Mikey Keene replaced Gabriel and delivered touchdowns on his two possessions of work, including firing a 30-yard scoring pass to Kaedin Robinson on a fourth down play. The performance of the reserves was lost on Malzahn. “We had an opportunity to get a lot of playing time for our twos and threes,” he said. “And they went out there and executed. When that happens they begin to gain confidence and that builds depth.”
In all, the Knights averaged almost eight yards per play. They were six of 11 on third down plays and converted all three fourth down attempts – scoring touchdowns on two of those plays. The UCF defense allowed 80 yards on Bethune’s opening drive but gave up just 199 yards of total offense for the rest of the game – limiting the Wildcats to just 24 rushing yards in the game.
The victory pushed the Knights to 2-0 on the season and they will face Louisville on the road next Friday night. The Wildcats dropped to 0-2 and open their conference schedule next week at home against Alabama A&M.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bethune-Cookman 7 0 7 0 –14
UCF 14 21 21 7 –63
1st 13:42 UCF – #5 I.Bowser 17 yd rush (#98 D.Obarski kick)
1st 07:37 BCU – #7 D.Powell, Jr. 15 yd pass from #18 S.Patrick (#39 D.Moghaddam kick)
1st 01:08 UCF – #3 B.Johnson 22 yd pass from #11 D.Gabriel (#98 D.Obarski kick)
2nd 09:37 UCF – #5 I.Bowser 1 yd rush (#98 D.Obarski kick)
2nd 06:28 UCF – #5 I.Bowser 1 yd rush (#98 D.Obarski kick)
2nd 00:40 UCF – #5 I.Bowser 9 yd rush (#98 D.Obarski kick)
3rd 11:46 UCF – #11 D.Gabriel 44 yd rush (#98 D.Obarski kick)
3rd 09:17 BCU – #87 D.Ellington 34 yd pass from #18 S.Patrick (#39 D.Moghaddam kick)
3rd 05:30 UCF – #33 T.Coles 15 yd pass from #11 D.Gabriel (#98 D.Obarski kick)
3rd 00:16 UCF – #2 K.Robinson 30 yd pass from #16 M.Keene (#98 D.Obarski kick)
4th 10:26 UCF – #33 T.Coles 4 yd rush (#98 D.Obarski kick)