Knights Shut Out Bulldogs in Home Opener

ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – In front of the second-largest home-opening crowd in school history, UCF moved to 2-0 on the season with a 38-0 victory over South Carolina State (0-2) Saturday night at Spectrum Stadium. UCF fans filled nearly every seat in the house to the tune of 43,269, including a large boisterous group of students.

“Game ball to the student section,” UCF head coach Josh Heupel said. "That’s absolutely fantastic, walking out (for) that first home game. That’s the best student section I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been for an opener. We appreciate the energy and atmosphere they created inside of that place. (We’re) going to need that from them as we continue to go down the schedule.”

That crowd was treated to the first shutout by a Knight defense since the 2016 season-opener. Ironically, that contest was also a 38-0 victory over South Carolina State.

On Saturday, the Knights’ defense created three turnovers for the second straight week. A trio of interceptions – from Richie Grant, Kyle Gibson and Antwan Collier – helped keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard. In addition to the takeaways, Black and Gold defenders accounted for 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including 4 sacks. Titus Davis and Brendon Hayes tallied sacks, as did defensive backs Nevelle Clarke and Rashard Causey.

“The defense played really well,” Heupel said. “I don’t care who you’re playing, what they’re doing on offense, if you’re shutting them down, you’re doing a fantastic job. I thought (we had) more discipline in making plays in space. The secondary did a great job of creating turnovers and going and attacking the football. I like the way those 11 guys played together tonight.”

The Knights’ offense had its own fair share of turnovers, also giving up three interceptions. Despite the miscues, UCF still racked up 566 yards of total offense, averaged 6.3 yards per play and scored plenty of points.

“At the end of the day, it isn’t about yards, it’s about wins. We certainly can play better, absolutely. There were times we were really efficient and got things going. We just didn’t do enough of it consistently all night long. At the same time … give (SC State) credit. Defensively, they are a good football team and did some positive things. But there are some areas we can improve on.”

The Knights were also successful in the third phase of the game. A.J. Wooten blocked a field goal attempt, which helped preserve the shutout and also allowed Gibson to return the ball deep into South Carolina State territory. Otis Anderson returned the first South Carolina State punt of the game 48 yards to the Bulldogs’ 39-yard line. Three plays later, Adrian Killins scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns to put the Knights up 7-0.

Killins reached paydirt again near the end of the first quarter, going 24 yards to put the Knights up 14-0. A Matthew Wright field goal and a 1-yard Anderson touchdown run put UCF on top 24-0 at the intermission.

Milton, who finished 21-of-39 for 243 yards, tossed a touchdown pass of 13 yards to Gabriel Davis early in the third quarter to put the Knights up 31-0. Greg McCrae finished the scoring with a 32-yard touchdown scamper late in the third quarter.