GREENVILLE, NC – In what was an auspicious start for the 13th-ranked UCF Knights on the road vs. East Carolina, UCF pulled away from the East Carolina Pirates in the second half to win their American Athletic Conference opener, 51-28.
Fresh off of a road win vs. Power Five opponent Georgia Tech in Atlanta, UCF opening AAC conference play on the road vs. a team that has always been a thorn in their side in the Pirates.
And by the way things started, it was going to be a long day in Greensville.
The Pirates jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, when UCF got the ball for the first time, it resembled a comedy gone wrong.
The Knights committed four straight pre-snap penalties—five on their first drive, which would end with a Greg McCrae rushing TD to tie the game at 7-7. On their second drive following a ECU fumble, the Knights would add another two false starts for a total of seven.
The Pirates would be just as error-prone as the Knights in fumbling three times in the first quarter.
The normally high-powered Knights offense would only be able to convert those two turnovers into three points. The Knights committed a total of ten penalties for 55 yards in the first quarter.
Yes. that is not a typo. As I stated, it was going to a be a long afternoon in the Carolinas, that got worse when a potential second touchdown by the Knights was nullified for an ineligible man downfield off of a jump pass from QB Dillion Gabriel, their 12th in the first half.
UCF would convert it into another field goal and extend their lead to 13-7.
Following a McCrae run on third and one, Gabriel connected with WR Jaylon Robinson for a 64-yard touchdown reception to extend their lead to 20-7 at the 4:57 mark in the second quarter. Gabriel would toss another seven-yard TD pass to former Wisconsin transfer in TE Jake Hescock with 24 seconds left in the half to further pad their lead to 27-7.
Gabriel would find TE Jacob Harris on an 11-yard TD reception early in the third quarter to give the Knights a 34-7 lead, and never looked back. Gabriel would connect with Robinson again on a 9-yard touchdown pass at 9:57 in the third quarter to make it 41-7.
After a slow and shaky start, Gabriel—at one point—completing a school-record 18 straight completions. While he still has some issues in dealing with pressure, Gabriel finished the game completing 32-47 passes for 408 yards and four touchdowns.
One week after proclaiming–and doubling down–on the Knights being the best team in Florida, the southpaw gunslinger from Hawaii, took his game to another level in attacking the Pirates downfield at will.
East Carolina added three late scores to make the score more respectable late, but by then, UCF had seized total control of what was once a sloppy game.
In rolling up 600-plus yards of total offense (632) for the second straight week, UCF proverbially shot themselves in the foot in committing 19 penalties for 139 yards. If the Knights hope to contend for a possible CFP playoff spot—and/or a New year’s Six Bowl—they’ll need to do a better job in showing some discipline with potential big-time matchups at Memphis and vs. Cincinnati at home in November.
With the win, and thanks to their 51-point outburst, UCF has now scored 30-plus points in 39 of their last 40 games.