Replay: Lightning (and Thunder), Indeed

Game Recap

Maybe it was an absolutely fitting ending to a warm, steamy, late-summer evening in Boca Raton that UCF's football game Saturday night against Florida Atlantic was first delayed—and then quickly called off—by lightning in the vicinity.
Because that's exactly what FAU coach Lane Kiffin's defense saw all night from the quick-strike Knights who produced big play after big play--averaging more than 31 yards on their seven touchdown-scoring plays.
If it wasn't freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel hitting Jacob Harris perfectly in stride for 57 yards just five minutes into the game, it was a scampering Adrian Killins Jr. navigating the FAU Stadium grass from one sideline to the other on his way to a 74-yard scoring reception.
In between, there was the ongoing thunderous presence of the UCF offensive and defensive lines—both paving the way for the Knights' outsized ground game (312 yards) and making life complicated for the Owls when they had the football (16 tackles for loss involving 13 different UCF defenders).
All that combined to allow the Knights to walk away into the warm, late-night rain showers with an impressive 48-14 triumph after Kiffin and UCF head coach Josh Heupel agreed to dispense with the final 4:20.
Give the Owls some credit. Their students on Friday night burned a version of the UCF mascot, Knightro—with the footage making ESPN's GameDay show. They produced a stadium-record crowd of 30,811 (with lots of help from visible and audible Knights fans, including the UCF band). They moved their student seating right behind the visiting bench in hopes of affecting the vibe on that side of the field. And, for a while at least, a pair of FAU second-period field goals (plus a third attempt, missed from 46 yards) kept the home fans intrigued.
The Owls welcomed a ranked team into their stadium for the first time—with FAU qualifying as the only team in the country to play ranked opponents in each of its first two outings (last week at fifth-rated Ohio State).
Meanwhile, the 17th-ranked Knights simply did their thing(s) on both sides of the ball.
Heupel's pregame battle cry in a hyped visiting locker room sounded a familiar refrain: "Hey, attack, attack, attack. Go get that ball. Do it for 60 minutes. Let's go. . . ."
The Knights may have surprised their fans with Gabriel under center to start the game, but it looked like the same old attack for UCF. Heupel's offensive line paved the way for 20- (Greg McCrae) and 16-yard (Otis Anderson) rushing gains on the first two plays from scrimmage—and the visitors were, literally, off to the races.
After a 75-yard TD drive that came solely on the ground, Gabriel on the next possession threw the bomb to Harris on the second play and the rookie's first completion of the night made it 14-0 barely five minutes into the game.
Unlike a week ago in the opener, UCF consistently took aerial shots down the field. Though that affected Gabriel's completion percentage (he missed all five of his throws in the second period), when he did connect it came with headlines. His seven completions averaged exactly 35 yards a pop—and the Knights' ballcarriers (five different players ran for TDs) did the rest.
When FAU's first punt completely misfired and was blocked by the Owls' own offensive line, Kiffin had to know it might be a challenging night. Two plays later came the Gabriel-to-Harris TD play (Harris' first career TD catch) and the Knights were off to the races.
UCF's run dominance could not have been better exhibited than on an 84-yard march (all rushing yards) that lasted 12 plays and made it 21-0 with 6:01 until halftime. Yet another big play, this one a 39-yard scoring burst by Anderson, led into a 28-6 halftime advantage for the Knights. At that point, UCF already had recorded 208 net rushing yards, 89 by McCrae and 75 from Anderson.
"We've got to start this half fast as heck now," Heupel told his team at intermission. "Let's D-up."
Added defensive coordinator Randy Shannon (after his unit harassed the Owls with 10 tackles for loss in the first two periods alone), "Same defense, take it to a different level. Keep the tempo up."
UCF's quick-hitting offensive production meant the visitors ended on the short side of the time of possession and plays run columns (at one point FAU had run 22 more plays than the Knights). Yet those numbers mattered little.
Gabriel's 74-yard connection with Killins comprised a one-play scoring drive midway through the third period. Then a 32-yard Gabriel connection to Gabriel Davis jumpstarted the next UCF possession and resulted in a 71-yard scoring march that made it 41-6 for the visitors. The Knights' final points came on yet another one-play drive—a 28-yard TD run by Bentavious Thompson after a Tay Gowan interception.
"Hey, great effort tonight playing for 60 minutes, or actually 56 minutes," said Heupel to his troops after it ended. "Defensive line, heck of a job. Pressure on that quarterback all night long. Offensive line—300 yards rushing. Let's go. And we were on the right side of the turnover battle. Let's get out of here—we all know we've got a big one next week."
Heupel presented game balls to the defensive line, offensive line and Gowan. UCF had five rushing plays and five more pass plays worth at least 20 yards—and five of those covered at least 39 yards.
FAU ran off 20 more offensive plays and finished with an almost 11-minute advantage in time of possession, yet those figures could not have mattered less. The UCF depth prevailed impressively, with Eric Mitchell leading the way with nine tackles, Nate Evans adding eight and Eriq Gilyard and Aaron Robinson seven each. The Knights finished with five sacks, six pass breakups and five quarterback hurries.
After two weeks, no team in the country has produced more first downs and UCF has yet to turn the football over. The Knights lead the nation in tackles for loss, rate second in passing yards per completion (19.94) and third in pass efficiency defense.
In Heupel parlance, the Knights are 1-0 for a second week in a row.
And all it took was another solid dose of UCF lightning and thunder.