No. 13 UCF recorded over 600 total yards for the second consecutive game in a 51-28 victory over East Carolina on Saturday.
Fresh off being voted the Walter Camp National Player of the Week, quarterback Dillon Gabriel completed 32/47 passes and threw for 408 yards and four touchdowns. Gabriel is the first UCF quarterback to throw for 400 plus yards in back-to-back weeks, according to UCF Athletics.
Gabriel completed a school-record 18 passes in a row during a stretch of the second and third quarters, in the midst of 41 unanswered points from the Knights offense.
“Respectfully, I don’t care about any of that,” Gabriel said after the game. “The main goal today was to get a win.”
After 2 games:Dillon Gabriel:59/88, 67%, 825yds, 8 TDs, 1 INTOpposing QBs:32/65, 49%, 459 yds, 4 TDs, 3 INTsGreat OFF/QB + No Fly Zone DEF pic.twitter.com/QWd0TKDTio— ⚔️Sidelines - UCF⚔️ (@Sidelines_UCF) September 26, 2020
After suffering an injury against Georgia Tech last Saturday, Tre Nixon was inactive against East Carolina. Fellow wideout Marlon Williams saw an uptick in targets, hauling in 13 receptions for 136 yards.
Receiver Jaylon Robinson had his second consecutive 100-yard game, catching nine passes and recording two touchdowns. Robinson’s first collegiate touchdown came with 4:57 remaining in the second quarter, when Gabriel found Robinson streaking down the left side of the field for a 64-yard score to put the Knights up 20-7.
“It felt great, but I want more,” Robinson said. “It’s just the beginning.”
Knights also have two receivers with 100+ yards for the second straight game with Marlon Williams (114) and Jaylon Robinson (100). #UCFvsECU— osknights (@osknights) September 26, 2020
Jacob Harris had a career day in Nixon’s absence with five receptions for 69 yards and a score.
Despite 632 yards of offense, UCF had to endure 19 penalties for 139 yards, including four consecutive false starts on their opening possession. The Knights were the fourth most penalized team in the nation last season with 111 penalties and now have 27 penalties through two games this season, the most in FBS.
“I’ve never been a part of a first drive like we had right there,” UCF Head Coach Josh Heupel said.
The Knights offensive line underwent changes today with Samuel Jackson starting at right-tackle over Marcus Tatum and Cole Schneider taking Jackson's spot at left-guard.
Final: UCF 51, East Carolina 28. That was a 4-hour game, with 30 penalties.— Steve Lyttle (@slyttle) September 26, 2020
After a nine play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game, the East Carolina (0-1) offense went scoreless for nearly 30 minutes. During this stretch, the UCF defense forced and recovered three fumbles.
It wasn’t until Pirates quarterback Holton Ahlers found receiver C.J. Johnson for a 37-yard score with 6:26 left in the third quarter that they got off the schneid.
Ahlers finished the game 14/29 for 215 yards with three touchdowns and two turnovers. Heupel said during the week it would be important to prevent Ahlers from getting outside the pocket and beating the Knights with his feet.
After a 19-yard scamper on the Pirates first drive, Ahlers was held to 36 yards on 11 carries the rest of the way.
"We had drives going, but we have to get better and it starts with me. I can't turn the ball over." #ECU Football QB Holton Ahlers. Listen to the 5th Quarter Call-in Show NOW on 92.7FM Greenville or watch and subscribe on #YouTube - https://t.co/idSlN67oZI pic.twitter.com/K3oa0ohfPV— Pirate Radio ☠️ (@PR927FM) September 26, 2020
Johnson entered the game looking to build on a freshman season that saw him finish just shy of 1,000 yards. Despite the touchdown, Johnson caught only one other ball and finished with two receptions for 52 yards.
East Carolina Head Coach Mike Houston said this week that his team needed to withstand the early surge of the UCF offense, unlike last year when they went down 35-6 at the half. Things did not fare much better for the Pirates on Saturday as they entered the half down by 20 points.
“I believe in them. The reason I am disappointed is I believe we have some of the best running backs in the league. One of the best quarterbacks in the league. Some of the best wide receivers,” Houston said. “I’m disappointed because we didn’t play like it.”
Following in defensive-end Josh Celiscar's footsteps from last Saturday, freshman defensive-lineman Keenan Hester recorded his first collegiate sack. Linebacker Eriq Gilyard said it's great to see the young guys contributing early on in the season.
"It feels good because you know the work some of those young guys put in," Gilyard said. "Just grinding with you and they finally get their chance and their number is called and they go out there and make a play, it kinda feels good."
Up 44-21 late in the fourth quarter, Heupel inserted freshman running back Johnny Richardson into the backfield and Richardson responded with a 31-yard touchdown run untouched.
True FR Johnny Richardson’s SR year at Lake Wales HS:- 202 car- 2681 yds- 13.3 yds per carry - 34 TDsNot half bad pic.twitter.com/UbH23XJ2Vt— ⚔️Sidelines - UCF⚔️ (@Sidelines_UCF) September 26, 2020
Looking ahead, the Knights will come back to Orlando this Saturday for their first home game of 2020 against Tulsa (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN 2.
After playing in an empty stadium on Saturday, Heupel said his team is looking forward to seeing UCF fans in the stands against Tulsa.
"I think our kids will definitely be excited," Heupel said. "To be at home and play in front of some fans that wear black and gold."