Replay: Road Worries? Nah, Knights’ Road Warriors Get It Done

Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Tulsa.
No need to remind UCF football fans how complicated life had been on the road in 2019.
One point on a fourth-down trick play here and a couple of three-point losses there—and all of it more painful after Knight fans and layers had been spoiled with their pair of perfect regular seasons in 2017 and 2018.
So could UCF change the narrative in New Orleans? Against a six-win Tulane team unbeaten at home and averaging 45.0 points and 540.8 total yards at Yulman Stadium?
Absolutely. And it happened by following the script coach Josh Heupel lays out virtually every week.
Start fast? The Knights scored the first 10 points in the initial 11 minutes, built a 24-7 lead and never trailed.
Turnovers? UCF had none—the first time the Knights have done that since week two in a road win at Florida Atlantic.
Penalties? Heupel's squad had 40 yards in losses—yet that was 80 yards fewer than the Knights' last road outing at Tulsa.
Throw in just enough big plays from Otis Anderson and his mates and the Knights (8-3 overall, 5-2 AAC) flew happily home to Orlando with a 34-31 victory after a bizarre football game that featured a combined nine fourth-down conversions.
"Just win, baby," as longtime Oakland Raider owner Al Davis famously used to say.
The Knights survived and advanced—and now it's on to the rivalry finale with USF.
Heupel challenged his team in his pregame remarks: "The ball loves our hands today. Attack, attack, attack. Be the aggressive guy, be the aggressive unit, be the aggressive team for 60 minutes, alright?
"Have a heck of a lot of fun and compete like it's 0-0 for 60 minutes."
Added secondary coach Willie Martinez, "Let's worry about starting fast . . . right now."
And so the Knights did.
After Tulane missed a field goal, the visitors produced their own three-pointer after a first-play screen pass to Adrian Killins for 19 yards and the first of those fourth-down conversions, this one a seven-yard completion to Gabriel Davis on a fourth-and-six setting at the Tulane 26.
After Eriq Gilyard and Nate Evans thwarted a fourth-and-one try by the Green Wave, the Knights drove 62 yards the other direction—with Dillon Gabriel finding Marlon Williams for 23 yards and the score and a 10-0 edge.
UCF gave up a touchdown after multiple possessions pinned deep in its own territory—then Anderson flipped the field with a 44-yard dash midway through the second period.
"We started fast--now we get to finish strong," noted Martinez to the Knights at the break.
"What's gonna be your legacy on defense in the second half?" asked UCF defensive coordinator Randy Shannon.
With Dillon Gabriel scrambling twice for 10 yards each, the Knights produced their own fourth-down magic: a 30-yard completion to Williams to the Tulane one on fourth and five.
A Darriel Mack TD run made it 24-7 less than five minutes into the third period.
But the home team didn't quit. The Green Wave fought back with a 98-yard kickoff return (the longest kickoff return versus the Knights to that point this year had been 36 yards) and added a field goal on its next possession.
Suddenly it was a seven-point ballgame again. And the Knights' response came quickly.
A Gabriel-to-Anderson slant pass covered 58 yards to the Tulane 17. On fourth down at the two, Mack found veteran tight end Anthony Roberson for his first career reception to make it 31-17.
A 40-yard bomb to Davis went to the Tulane 12 and the second of Dylan Barnas' field goals (he's now 11 of 12 in 2019) finished the UCF scoring. The Green Wave scored twice in the back half of the final period, but it wasn't enough—with a late on-side kick going the Knights' way when Tulane illegally touched the football.
This was a big homecoming for New Orleans products Evans (seven tackles) and Brendon Hayes—and there was a massive, vocal showing by Knight fans at Yulman Stadium.
It marked Gabriel's most impressive day yet in terms of combining both his throwing and running skills (he led the Knights with a career-best 58 ground yards on a season-high 12 carries, three more than any other UCF player).
Gabriel completed 24 throws, one short of his season high. Williams had his own career day—nine catches for 119 yards. Anderson did what he does quite often—a run for 44 yards, a catch for 58 and a punt return for 36. Richie Grant had 12 tackles for a defense that produced nine tackles for loss (by seven different players).
Eight third-down conversions—and four more on fourth down—made a difference.
This was a different postgame scene than the Knights have seen lately away from home—and Heupel was quick to ensure the UCF players appreciated what it took to prevail.
At this time of year—and with a short week leading to the USF assignment Friday night—there's little time for in-depth analysis.
The Knights will play host to their biggest rival in a final Spectrum Stadium appearance for 2019—with the opportunity to finish with a two-game overall win streak, a perfect record in six home outings and some momentum heading into whatever postseason assignment eventually is handed to Heupel's crew.
And, for now, all that is enough.