Heupel made an immediate impact during his first year at UCF, leading the Knights to their second consecutive undefeated season and American Athletic Conference Championship. Heupel became just the third coach in history to lead a team to an undefeated regular season in his first year coaching. (Chris Peterson, Boise State, 2003 and Larry Coker, Miami, 2001).
Preaching a 1-0 mentality every week, Heupel’s fast-paced offense posted 44.2 points per game that ranked sixth in the nation with an average margin of victory of 23 points. The offense churned out an average of 545.4 yards per game to finish the regular season ranked third. The ground game set a program single-season record with 3,318 yards on the ground. UCF averaged 276.5 yards rushing per game, good for fifth in the country. Running back Greg McCrae became the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2013 with 1,101 yards on the ground, the ninth most in program history.
The passing attack was also one of the best in country behind quarterbacks McKenzie Milton and Darriel Mack Jr. UCF was 30th in the nation with 268.9 yards per game and 28 touchdowns on the year, including 15.22 yards per completion for the eighth best mark in the country. The quarterbacks were effective, posting the ninth best passing efficiency mark of 156.09, while throwing just six interceptions, the fewest by a UCF team in program history. The offensive line kept the backfield clean with just 14 sacks allowed on the season.
Not to be outdone, the UCF defense had a stellar 2018 campaign. UCF ranked 24th in the country in scoring defense with 21.3 points allowed per game. The Knights racked up 96 tackles for loss, the sixth most in the nation and 27 sacks. The Black and Gold forced 26 turnovers, split evenly between interceptions and fumbles. Richie Grant led the way with six picks, while Nate Evans had a pair of fumble recoveries, including a 94-yard touchdown recovery against ECU. Second-half adjustments were key to the Knights’ success, as opponents scored just 7.8 points per second half, including 2.2 points per third quarter.
The Knights put a league record 17 student-athletes on All-American Athletic Conference teams. Milton became the first player in conference history to repeat as the Offensive Player of the Year. He, offensive linemen Jake Brown, Cole Schneider and Jordan Johnson, linebacker Nate Evans, cornerback Nevelle Clarke and safety Richie Grant earned First Team honors. Wide receiver Gabriel Davis, offensive lineman Wyatt Miller, defensive linemen Titus Davis and Brendon Hayes, linebacker Pat Jasinski, kicker Matthew Wright and running back Adrian Killins, who was also honored as a kick returner, garnered Second Team honors, while tight end Michael Colubiale and cornerback Brandon Moore achieved Honorable Mention status. Milton finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Heupel opened his head coaching career with a thoroughly dominant 56-17 win on the road at UConn, before pitching a shutout in his first game at Spectrum Stadium, a 38-0 win over South Carolina State. After seeing their North Carolina contest trip canceled due to Hurricane Florence, the Knights responded with three straight wins at the Bounce House over FAU, ACC Coastal Division champs Pitt and SMU. Then at Memphis, the Knights faced a 16-point hole in the first half but rallied to a thrilling 31-30 victory on the road. Backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. nearly set the UCF single-game rushing record by a quarterback with 120 yards on the ground when the Black and Gold knocked off ECU 37-10 the following week. Off the bye week, UCF took down Temple in a Thursday night showdown, before edging Navy 35-24.
The eyes of the college football world were on UCF for their Week 12 matchup against then-No. 19 Cincinnati. ESPN College Gameday came to the campus for the first time in history in front of a crowd of 20,000 fans. In primetime on ABC, UCF put on a dominant display with a 38-13 win over the Bearcats.
UCF then faced one of its biggest tests of the year when Milton went down with a season-ending injury against USF. The Knights rallied together to beat their War On I-4 rivals 38-10 to set up an American Athletic Conference Championship Game against Memphis. Heupel and the Knights went 1-0 for the 12th straight time in dramatic fashion, rallying from a 17-point gap to beat the Tigers 56-41.
UCF Head Coach Josh Heupel: "I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to represent UCF. What makes this opportunity so unique is the vision of the leadership from President John Hitt, Provost Dale Whitaker
UCF VP/AD Danny White: "I'm thrilled to welcome Josh and his family to UCF. I believe we've identified one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. His offensive system is very similar to what we've been running. I know he's going to utilize all the great talent on our roster and continue to add to it. He's no stranger to success, winning a national championship as a quarterback and leading a number of extremely high-powered offensive teams. Coach Heupel is in coaching for the right reasons. He cares about his student-athletes and that's one of the most important attributes I look for in a coach."
President John C. Hitt: "Josh believes in recruiting and developing well-rounded student-athletes. That's a perfect fit with UCF, the No. 1 public university in the nation for student-athlete academic success. Josh is an outstanding leader, competitor
Heupel comes to UCF after serving as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Missouri for the past two seasons.
In 2015, prior to Heupel's arrival, Missouri ranked 124th in the nation in total offense (280.9). In 2016, the Tigers led the Southeastern Conference and were ranked No. 13 in the nation, averaging 500.5 yards per game. In 2017, Mizzou is currently ranked No. 7 in the nation in total offense, averaging 511.5 yards per game. The Tigers are currently No. 10 in the nation in scoring at 39.3 points per game.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock blossomed under Heupel's tutelage. Lock led the SEC in passing as a sophomore, throwing for 3,399 yards and 23 touchdowns. He followed that up with an even stronger junior campaign in 2017, passing for 3,695 yards and an SEC-record 43 touchdown tosses, with a bowl game left to play.
Heupel served as assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Utah State in 2015. Despite the loss of their starting quarterback to injury, Heupel's unit improved from 81st nationally to 60th in scoring offense.
Heupel started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He was on a coaching staff that took part in back-to-back national championship games following the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Heupel helped mentor Jason White to the Heisman Trophy in 2003.
He spent the 2005 season at Arizona before heading back to OU as a full-time assistant.
He returned to his alma mater for the 2006 season and coached the quarterbacks for five seasons. Heupel coached Sam Bradford to the Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien and Sammy Baugh Awards in 2008. Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency that season and the Sooners tallied an NCAA record five straight 60-point games.
Heupel was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2011 and served in that role for four seasons. His 2011 offense ranked fourth in the nation in total offense and passing offense. The 2012 unit ranked fifth in the nation in passing and 12th in total offense. In 2013, OU led the Big 12 in rushing and total offense. In his final season with OU, the Sooners led the nation in fewest sacks and led the Big 12 and ranked 10th in the nation in rushing, as well as finishing 20th in the nation in scoring and 23rd in total offense.
National Championship Playing Career
Heupel was a national-championship winning quarterback at Oklahoma. He was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2000 while leading the Sooners to a victory over Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl, sealing the national title for OU. In 2001, Heupel was the Associated Press Player of the Year, Walter Camp Award winner, Archie Grifin Award winner
During his two seasons as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma, Heupel posted a 20-5 record. He passed for 7,456 yards and 53 touchdowns. Overall, he still ranks among OU's top three quarterbacks in passing yards, completions and touchdown
- Drew Lock (Missouri) – SEC Single-Season Touchdown Passing Record, 43 (2017)
- Landry Jones (Oklahoma) – 2010 Sammy Baugh Award Winner; Finished No. 3 in NCAA career passing yards, No. 5 NCAA career touchdown passes
- Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) – 2008 Heisman Trophy Winner; No. 1 overall pick in 2010 NFL Draft
- Jason White (Oklahoma) – 2003 Heisman Trophy Winner
Heupel earned his bachelor's degree in business marketing from Oklahoma in 2001. He and his wife Dawn have two children – daughter Hannah and son Jace. Heupel is an Aberdeen, S.D. native.