Tampa Bay Sports Day

UCF Knights Top Stanford to Improve to 3-0

ORLANDO – With 21 unanswered points to start the game, and four touchdown passes from freshman Dillon Gabriel, the No. 16 UCF football team cruised to a 45-27 victory over visiting Stanford in front of 45,008 fans at Spectrum Stadium Saturday afternoon.

For the third straight game to start the 2019 season, the Knights (3-0) found the end zone on their first drive of the game, as Gabriel led a 77-yard drive that culminated with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Williams, the receiver’s first of the season.

On the ensuing Stanford (1-2) drive, Aaron Robinson recorded his first career interception, picking off K.J. Costello at the Stanford 41-yard line and returning it 40 yards. Robinson’s foot barely stepped out of bounds at the one.

Greg McCrae finished it off with a one-yard score, one of 109 yards in the game. It marked the fourth career 100-yard game for the junior.

After another Stanford three-and-out, the UCF offense got back to work and went 62 yards to make it 21-0 just mid-way through the first quarter. This time Gabriel found Tre Nixon on a 38-yard strike to give the Knights the commanding lead.

“We talked about starting fast, in particular in this game because of the two contrasting styles,” UCF head coach Josh Heupel said after the game. “You have an opportunity, if you play fast and good early, to maybe make them play a little bit different than they’re used to, or accustomed to or want to.

“At the same time, we talked about playing at 0-0, no matter which side of the scoreboard you’re on. Our kids did a great job of being dialed into their game plan early, having their eyes in the right place so they can play assignment-sound football and then making plays in space.”

Gabriel hit Gabriel Davis with a 38-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, Dylan Barnas connected on a 21-yard field goal mid-way through the second, and Otis Anderson punched in a one-yard score to give UCF a commanding 38-7 lead at halftime.

The second half was quiet, as the Knights failed to score in the third quarter, the only quarter in 2019 that UCF has not scored in.

Gabriel’s fourth and final touchdown pass of the game came early in the fourth quarter, as he found tight end Jake Hescock on a one-yard score to make it 45-17 in favor of the Knights.

A Cardinal field goal and a scoop-and-score by Stanford made the one-sided affair look a bit closer on the scoreboard.

In just his third collegiate contest, Gabriel went 22-of-30 for 347 yards and four touchdown against the Cardinal. He didn’t throw a pick and he didn’t get sacked.

“I feel like we just did our job,” Gabriel said after the game. “That’s the main thing. We stayed together as a unit. Everyone believed in each other and it worked out.”

The Knights, now off to a 3-0 start for the third straight season, will head back on the road next week to take on ACC foe Pittsburgh. Last year, UCF defeated the Panthers 45-14 in Orlando. Pitt is 1-2 to start the 2019 campaign, having lost to Penn State on Saturday.

“Our kids are excited each and every week to go out and play,” Heupel said. “They’re probably the most competitive kids I’ve ever been around. If you put a ball down, they’re going to go compete fiercely. They knew this was big for our fanbase and the energy around it. If you come and watch us work Monday through Friday, they’re really consistent in who they are and how they operate, how focused they are. I think that’s a key ingredient to our success.”