TULSA, OK – Thanks to a 23-yard game-winning field goal from Jacob Rainey late in the fourth quarter, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane rallied to stun two-time defending American Athletic Conference champion, UCF 34-31 Friday night.
The win, Tulsa’s first in conference play, ended any hopes of UCF making it to a New Year’s Six Bowl game and defending it’s conference crown in 2019. With Memphis and Cincinnati both playing simply stellar football this season, this may actually be the ironic silver lining for UCF, as things just weren’t meant to be for the UCF Knights.
A year after losing Heisman Trophy candidate McKenzie Milton to a horrific knee injury, and seeing Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush flop at QB, and be moved to WR, true freshman Dillon Gabriel has simply overachieved at this point.
But at the end of the day, the 19-year-old Hawaiian-born southpaw is just that. A freshman.
For the season, Gabriel has completed 175-of-289 passes for 2,806 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a passer rating of 164.7, and a completion percentage of 60.8 percent
in the loss at Tulsa, he went 23-of-38 for 290 yards and one touchdown. While he did also have two interceptions, including a costly one in the final moments, there are some growing pains that should be expected from a frosh playing his first full season under center.
Perhaps it’s the ridiculous and high expectations from a quickly-becoming-spoiled fan base that is accustomed to 40-plus points a game, flashy statistics and New Year’s Day bowl games. While the neophyte Knights football program is still fresh off of a Peach Bowl win over Auburn, a self-claimed 2017 national championship and a 20-plus game win streak that stretched over two-plus years, the Knights needed a reality check.
And they got it out on the Dust Bowl.
There’s no shame in admitting that you lost, no shame in admitting that you lost to a quality team, but one of the reasons why many are quickly coming to hate both UCF and the Knights fan base is they are becoming that spoiled new rich kid that moves into your neighborhood, steals all the attention, your girlfriend, brags about it, making you want to beat him up, badly.
UCF doesn’t have a inferiority complex problem, as record-wise they have done better than their fellow Sunshine State brethren, but a superiority complex that is quickly shifting towards an entitled arrogance that is making UCF turn into the one thing that they—and their fan base—hate the most, a smug and entitled group that is becoming too spoiled, too quickly by recent success.
In getting to see the brilliance of Gabriel down at the Bounce House vs. Stanford and at Heinz Field at Pitt, you cannot help be feel blessed in seeing such talent coming to Orlando—all the way from Hawaii!—and that the program is going to be in great hands, whether it is under Gabriel, Mack Jr. or even Milton.
Bottom line is that while 2019 is all but done, UCF needed this to get a chance to re-boot the brand, rebuild the program under Gabriel, and just take a step back and revamp for 2020. Believe me when I say that Gabriel will bounce back even better next season and have his name included on all the preseason quarterback and Heisman Trophy watch lists going forward.
Call 2019 a gap year for UCF, if it makes you feel better.
In the case of this year, as stated earlier, there’s no shame in not being as good as you were in the past, as things just weren’t meant to be for both Gabriel and the Knights in 2019.