The Knights improved to a season score of 2-0, while showcasing depth in a 63-14 runaway win on Saturday against Bethune-Cookman University.
UCF featured a rotation of skill position players who contributed to 671 yards of total offense. Running back Isaiah Boswer, a Northwestern University transfer, continued to build on his strong performance in week one, scoring a career-high four rushing touchdowns to tie a program record, according to UCF Athletics.
“He’s a real running back; there’s no doubt about it,” Knights Head Coach Gus Malzahn said in a press conference on Saturday. “He can hold onto the football (and) he's running with great pad level.”
The night began with a weather delay for a second consecutive game, following last week’s three-hour delay, but ended with the Knights' fifth consecutive year starting 2-0 for the season.
UCF started the game hot, connecting on the pass-and-run game. The first drive ended with Bowser breaking through the defense for a 17-yard touchdown run. Malzahn said it was critical for the team to get off to a good start after trailing 21 points against Boise State University last week.
“It was real important,” Malzahn said. “We talked about getting off to a better start, and we did that.”
Knights running back Trillion Coles scored his first touchdown of his collegiate career. The former UCF walk-on was sidelined last season with a torn Achilles. Coles rushed for 78 yards on 11 carries, including a touchdown, according to UCF Athletics.
Coles said in a press conference that it was mentally difficult to come back from such a devastating leg injury but that supportive family members, such as his mom, make it worth it.
“The first thing I thought of was my mom,” Coles said. “I know she was happy. I just pointed at her and thought about her.”
On the defensive side of the ball, UCF’s defensive line made it tough for the Wildcats to find momentum and to complete downfield plays. The Knights' pass rush forced BCU quarterback Shannon Patrick to scramble around in the pocket before forcing his first interception to Knights linebacker Tatum Bethune.
Bethune-Cookman finished with 279 total yards but just 24 rushing yards, according to UCF Athletics. The Knights’ defense continued to struggle early on with getting off the field on third-downs. The Wildcats completed 5-9 on third-down conversions in the first half, according to UCF Athletics.
UCF defensive lineman Big Kat Bryant said it's important for the defense to get to the quarterback in order to limit big plays.
"We got to do more of something," Bryant said in a press conference on Saturday. "We got to focus in. We're doing something wrong, but ... I'll correct that."
For the offense, UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel finished 23-36 for 312 passing yards with two touchdowns. Gabriel also escaped the pocket and scrambled for a career-high 44-yard rushing touchdown to give UCF a 42-7 lead, with nearly 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter, according to UCF Athletics.
Knights wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe contributed to the offensive passing attack with a breakout career-high in receptions: O’Keefe finished the game with eight receptions for 110 yards.
"I try to take advantage of every target I have," O'Keefe said in a press conference on Saturday. "At the end of the day, it's all about performance."
The Knights featured all three of their backup quarterbacks against Bethune-Cookman. Backup quarterback Mikey Keene entered the game late in the third quarter and connected his first career touchdown pass to wide receiver Kaedin Robinson for 30 yards, according to UCF Athletics.
"It's great that Mikey got in there," Malzahn said. "Mikey's done a real good job. There's nothing like game experience, and he managed the offense well.
"The touchdown pass was a really good one. He was under duress from the linebacker, threw it off his back foot, and Kaedin came and made a really good catch and got in the end zone."
The Knights have played back-to-back home games but will have to travel to Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday. Bryant said he's never played against the University of Louisville Cardinals, who currently have a season score of 1-1.
"We going in there with the same poise," Bryant said. "Consistency: that's the only thing we need to do."