ORLANDO, FL – On a clear, hot and humid day in the Central Florida sun, the UCF Knights demolished more than a quality Power Five opponent in the visiting Stanford Cardinal, but made a loud and clear statement that UCF football is not going anywhere soon in a 45-27 romp.
Gabriel, a true freshman southpaw from Mililani, Hawaii, went 22-of-30 for 347 yards and four touchdowns in helping the 16th-ranked UCF Knights make quick work of the visiting Cardinal at Spectrum Stadium, in front of a nationally-televised game and sellout crowd of 45,000, which included noted Stanford alum and PGA champion, Tiger Woods.
Stanford, who lost to PAC-12 rival, USC the week before coming to Orlando, looked dazed, confused and simply gassed as they—like their Redwood tree mascot—wilted under the harsh Florida heat.
With the win, UCF improved to 3-0, jumped up from No.16 to No.15 in the Associated press poll and earned it’s first-ever win over a PAC-12 school. UCF also improved to 4-1 vs. Power Five teams since 2017.
While some may dismiss the Knights win over Stanford as the Cardinal not being ranked, or having their usual brand of touch, smash-mouth style of football from years past, the performance that Gabriel, who was named Walter Camp National Player of the Week in his third collegiate game, joined McKenzie Milton as the fourth UCF player to earn the honor and first since 2004 says something about the program that UCF is building.
What else does UCF need to do to gain respect?
To channel my inner Morpheus from The Matrix, but if there is a proverbial splinter that drives UCF fans, alumni and supporters mad is the consistent amount of disrespect and proverbial slights that the outside national media is that the Knights play no one and that they do not play in a Power Five conference.
Knights head coach Josh Heupel denied that the Knights win was a “statement game” in response to the question I asked him and that their main goal was to go 1-0 in the post-game press conference, you couldn’t help but feel and sense that the players and fans seemed a little extra amped in having a team from a Power Five conference in their house.
Actions speak louder than words, and make no mistake, the Knights made a clear statement in their rout of Stanford is that they are not to be taken lightly and that UCF is here to stay.
Also published on Medium.