Replay: Knights Plunder the Pirates

There's always something to correct.
That's the beauty of a college football game, as UCF coach Josh Heupel or any other collegiate head coach will tell you.
The score may be 50-0, but that doesn't mean there aren't aspects that can improve.
And so it will be in the aftermath of the Knights' 51-28 (come-from-behind) road win Saturday at East Carolina.
UCF fell behind early for the second straight week. There were penalties galore on both sides (19 for 139 by the Knights, including four false starts before they ran their first play). Late-game defensive focus may merit a conversation—though keep in perspective any issues there came with some liberal amounts of substitution after 41 consecutive points by UCF.
Take it all into consideration and roll the video.
But, then, consider that, at least through two football games, UCF is doing some uncommon--if not unprecedented--things on the offensive side of the ball. Then add nine turnovers gained in two Saturdays combined.
All of that and more boils into quite a recipe for success.
"Play harder than them all day. Bring your juice all day long," exhorted Heupel to his team before the game.
Then they did.
East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers completed his first five throws for 67 yards and less than four minutes into the 81-degree afternoon in Greenville the home team led 7-0.
For the second straight week, that proved to be a ho-hum reality for the Knights. Credit the UCF defense for holding Ahlers to only nine-of-24 throwing the rest of the way for only 148 yards.
Next came the false starts. Inexplicably it became first and 30 from the UCF 10-yard line. But Dillon Gabriel wiped that deficit out in two throws—24 yards to Marlon Williams and 17 on the next play to Ryan O'Keefe to convert the first of 29 first downs.
That sequence alone should have told the Pirates what kind of afternoon they were in for.
The Knights stormed back for 41 points in a row.
Between their final two drives of the first half and their first two of the second, they scored 28 points on four possessions totaling 27 plays, 294 yards and only 7:15 of time.
In the middle of all that came Gabriel's UCF-record 18 consecutive completions (that total included Jaylon Robinson's four grabs for 90 yards and two TDs, Williams' nine for 67, Jacob Harris' two for 17 and a TD, freshman Ja'Cyais Credle's two for nine on his first two collegiate receptions, plus Jake Hescock's one for seven and a TD after having an earlier TD catch called back on a penalty).
Gabriel's grand total over the record-setting stretch? Eighteen straight completions for 190 yards and four TDs.
And, in the middle of all that, the UCF defenders held strong. They forced (and recovered) fumbles on the next three ECU possessions after that opening TD. The next eight Pirate possessions after the opening score equated to only 34 plays and 117 combined yards.
"The last four series of the half? That was more like the best of us," defensive coordinator Randy Shannon told his charges at intermission.
By the time the home team mounted any more offense of substance it trailed 41-7 with almost 25 minutes left in the game. The Knights, by then, were on cruise control.
As ECU linebacker Xavier Smith noted, in something of an understatement, "As the game went on, obviously the tempo got us a little bit."
It's not as if UCF is not known for its offense. Certainly Gabriel can be proud that he—only two games into his sophomore campaign—is doing things to rival what names like Daunte Culpepper, Blake Bortles and his high school teammate McKenzie Milton have done.
For only the third time in history UCF has scored 49 or more points in consecutive games (also in 1997 versus Kent State and Samford and in 2017 at Cincinnati and against ECU).
After Williams' 154-yard receiving exploits last weekend, he added 13 more catches Saturday for another 136 yards—while Robinson grabbed nine for 150 yards and a pair of scores against the Pirates.
It's been 18 years since the Knights had pass-catchers total 150-plus yards on back-to-back Saturdays (Jimmy Fryzel and Doug Gabriel did it in 2002 against Miami of Ohio and Ohio University.).
The Knights' offense isn't exactly built around field goals. Still, it was reassuring to see first-year placekicker Daniel Obarski put his first three career attempts Saturday between the uprights.
NCAA statistics this year might not mean quite as much considering the odd numbers of games being played (and the fact the Big Ten and Pacific-12 don't even start for a while).
But don't blame Gabriel for being the first UCF quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards in consecutive games.
Don't fault the left-handed Hawaiian for ranking second in the country in passing TDs (eight), third in passing yards per game and total offense and 12th in passing efficiency.
No reason to ignore the fact Williams leads the nation in catches per game at 11.5 each (and stands fifth in receiving yards per game at 145.0).
Don't sleep on the UCF running game that has produced 243 (4.8 yards per carry) and 224 yards (5.6 each) in two games to begin 2020.
As of this morning, UCF leads the country in total offense, ranks fourth in scoring, fifth in passing yards per game and 12th in rushing.
The defense has chipped in with a plus-seven turnover margin. The Knights are 20th in team pass efficiency defense. A year ago, ECU receiver C.J. Johnson had eight catches for 106 yards versus UCF. Saturday he made a grab for 15 yards on the very first play from scrimmage—and then his only other reception (it did go for a TD) came with his team trailing 41-7.
Count on the Knights' offense to view with critical eyes and suspicion their second offensive possession when they ran three plays, lost 10 yards and punted – and another late in the third period when UCF went three and out and punted. That's the standard Heupel, Gabriel and their crew have set.
Said Heupel to his team after the game, "Offense, 600-some yards--there are some things we can do better. Don't take it for granted."
Somewhere in the video review, the Knights will try to find a way to replicate the second period when UCF ran 27 plays for 223 yards—while limiting ECU to 60 net yards.
Some fans (at Georgia Tech). Hardly any fans (at ECU). A more friendly collection of fans in black and gold this week. By now the Knights have settled into the environments.
Just bring the juice.
The perfect game remains ever elusive.
After a pair of 1-0 weekends, the chase continues.