ORLANDO, FL – After being delayed for two-plus hours due to lightning, UCF brought out a comeback storm of epic proportions in rallying from 21 points to beat fellow Group of Five powerhouse, Boise State 36-31.
With the help of Heisman hopeful in QB Dillon Gabriel and Northwestern transfer RB, Isaiah Bowser, UCF was able to overcome an early 21-0 deficit, which tied for the largest in their history and the largest in Gus Malzahn’s career.
In his first game as UCF’s new man in charge, the former Auburn head coach, clearly got a taste of playing in Orlando and it’s unpredictable weather. But, it’s safe to say that the “Gus Bus” came out on all cyclinders.
The first drive for the Broncos, UCF’s newly-retooled defense, under new defensive coordinator Travis Williams, led by former Auburn transfer, Big Kat Bryant, was flying around, and held Boise to a punt.
Following a turnover on downs, UCF’s up-tempo offense came to the field and went down the field at will. On a first-and-goal from the five, Gabriel ran a triple option and just did not execute the right pass, which turned to a 101-yard pick six, thanks to Broncos DB Tyric LeBeauf returning Gabriel’s pass for a touchdown, giving the visitors from the Smurf Turf and early 7-0 lead.
After UCF’s second possession stalled out due to penalties, Boise proceeded to make it 14-0, after a three-yard touchdown run by Broncos RB Andrew Van Buen with 4:00 left in the first quarter, as it appeared UCF was in for a long and quiet night at the normally loud Bounce House.
Boise State went up 21-0 at 12:50 in the second quarter, thanks to a 19-yard TD pass to Khalil Shakir. UCF would finally find the scoreboard on a 23-yard strike from Gabriel to TE Alec Holler to bring UCF to 21-7.
Boise would add a 31-yard FG by PK Jonah Dalmas to make it 24-7.
In my opinion, the Knight’s biggest touchdown was right before the half, with six seconds remaining, thanks to a eight-yard strike from Gabriel to TE Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, that brought UCF to 24-14.
Thanks to their score late in the first half and early in the second half, the Knights to got a two-for-one and pull within three at 24-21 by the middle of the 3rd quarter, thanks Gabriel’s third touchdown pass—a 11-yard strike to Brandon Johnson.
Gabriel would add one more touchdown to bring his total to four—a 21-yard pass to former Oklahoma transfer in WR Jaylon Robinson with 56 seconds left in the 3rd quarter to give UCF their first lead at 28-24.
For the game, the 6’1 Hawaiian-born southpaw completed 25-37 passes for 318 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. The Knights would add a safety at the start of the 4th quarter, to increase their lead to 30-24.
In what would be their last gasp, the Broncos would fight back and score on a short field to make the score 31-30, thanks to a seven-yard touchdown reception from Boise QB Hank Bachmeier to Shakir—his second of the evening.
For the game, the afore-mentioned Bachmeier went 25-39 for 263 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Ultimately, Bachmeier’s lone pick proved to be a costly one for the always-tough and hard-nosed Broncos.
After UCF sealed the game on a ten-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped off by a Bowser 8-yard touchdown run. Knights DB Dyllon Lester sealed a Knights victory with a pick of Bachmeier with 2:07 left.