Fast Start Leads Knights Past ECU on Homecoming

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ORLANDO –  The UCF football team didn't need much time to knock the rust off after a bye week. The Knights scored the first 21 points of the game and didn't look back, defeating visiting ECU 41-28 on Homecoming at Spectrum Stadium Saturday night.
The UCF (5-2, 2-1) defense didn't allow a touchdown in the first half, taking a commanding 35-6 lead into the break. The Knights totaled 418 yards in the first half and held the Pirates to just 115 yards of total offense.
"Offensively we were able to get going," head coach Josh Heupel said after the game. "Obviously, the pass game was going really well early. I thought our guys did great winning the one-on-one game. Dillon (Gabriel) was good in the pocket."
Gabriel went 17-for-22 with 274 yards passing, one touchdown through the air and one on the ground. The freshman finished the night with a career-high 365 yards passing and three total scores.
"In the first half, I thought Dillon's performance was fantastic," Heupel said. "I thought he was dialed in, great decision maker, active with the ball, was comfortable in the pocket. I thought there were some things in the second half that were there that he wasn't dialed in to or misread."
Gabriel was just 5-of-13 in the second half and he wasn't satisfied.
"I just have to improve on my part and strive to be perfect and being the best teammate that I can," Gabriel said. "That's all I can do."
One of Gabriel's two passing touchdowns went to Gabriel Davis. The junior wideout also caught a score from quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. to increase his season total to 10 through seven games in 2019. He came into Saturday ranked eighth in the nation in receiving touchdowns.
"We just went out there and competed," Davis said. "We studied them really well this week on all the coverages they would be running and what we would see. I just felt like we really did prepare great together to know what was going to get thrown at us."
It showed as Davis caught nine balls for 164 yards and two scores. It marked the fourth straight game that Davis has gone over 100 yards receiving, the second longest streak in UCF history.
Tre Nixon went for 103 yards on three catches and a score, his second 100-yard game of the season, while Marlon Williams had career highs of five catches and 78 receiving yards.
The Knight defense was also solid for much of the night, holding the Pirates (3-4, 0-3) to just 115 yards in the first half and forcing two turnovers.
Antwan Collier recorded his second interception of the season, picking off quarterback Holdton Ahlers, while Stephon Zayas and Eric Mitchell combined for a forced fumble and recovery.
Mitchell finished the night with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a pass break-up and the fumble recovery.
"I thought defensively we played relentless all night long," Heupel said. "I was really proud of the way those guys played. I told them that in the locker room. The turnovers were huge."
UCF will now get set to head back on the road. The Knights take on Temple next Saturday in Philadelphia at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.