Replay: Knights Display Is All It Takes

It wasn't another 600-yard total offense night for the UCF football team.
It wasn't another 400-passing yard accumulation by sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel.
But, if any fans blinked too long at the game's start or in the middle of the third period, they missed all the offense the Knights needed to put away Temple by a 38-13 count that marked arguably the most routine UCF victory of the 2020 season.
The Knights (5-2 overall, 4-2 in league play) permitted eight fewer points and 50 fewer yards than in any other outing this fall.
Throw in three more takeaways and it all equates to a three-game win streak for Josh Heupel's squad—heading into its biggest challenge of the fall.
"Leave it all on the field," urged Heupel to his team before kickoff. "Every single snap for your brother. Let's compete our butts off and have a lot of fun."
Temple came into the week with visions of quarterback Anthony Russo engaging in an aerial battle with Gabriel maybe similar to the 2018 shootout at the Bounce House in which Russo threw for 444 yards while matching up with McKenzie Milton.
But that never materialized, with word emerging pregame that Russo—out the last two games with a shoulder issue--remained behind in Philadelphia in COVID protocol.
With backup quarterback Trad Beatty out with an injury of his own from last week versus SMU, the signal-calling role went to redshirt sophomore Re-al Mitchell, making his first career start. And it did not go well.
On the second play of the football game, UCF's Eriq Gilyard forced and recovered a Mitchell fumble.
On Temple's sixth offensive play, UCF sophomore linebacker Tatum Bethune intercepted Mitchell.
The Owls' third possession became a three and out for the Knights' defense.
A little more than eight minutes into the contest, the stunned Temple sideline trailed 21-0 and had 12 total yards to its credit.
If any mystery remained UCF ended it with three consecutive scoring drives in the third period.
On a third-and-nine call, Gabriel connected with Marlon Williams for 23 yards and a score on the opening drive of the second half.
A 23-yard completion to Jaylon Robinson keynoted a 72-yard march that ended in a field goal.
Then, backed up at their own nine, the Knights went 91 yards in two plays—the first 70 yards on a catch and run by Robinson and the final 21 on a scoring pass to Williams.
In the third period alone, Gabriel completed seven of his eight throws for 184 yards.
With 3:59 remaining in the third period, UCF led 38-3 (that 35-point margin marked the largest of the season for the Knights) and Gabriel's night was over. Quadry Jones finished the third period and played all of the fourth under center.
Temple's only touchdown of the night came on a 12-yard drive after a lost fumble by the Knights.
The UCF defense did the rest. Only the two Temple field-goal drives produced more than 29 yards. Temple had the ball eight time in the opening half and only once did the Owls gain more than 20 yards.
Gilyard ended with a dozen stops and he and his teammates finished with four sacks and nine tackles for loss. Rookie cornerback Corey Thornton added a late interception.
Gabriel finished with 268 passing yards—significantly below his average—but it hardly mattered. Robinson (133 receiving yards) and Williams (104) again did their part.
"At the end of the day, plus one and a whole lot more," said Heupel to his players.
"Heck of an effort. Defense did a heck of a job all night long. There's more out there for us on offense, but it was good enough tonight and that's all that matters.
"This was the setup game for a big one next week. Everything we want is out in front of us. Let's go get ready to be at our best next Saturday."
Now it gets really interesting.
Next up is the home game Knights fans have been thinking about all fall—Saturday (3:30 p.m. on ESPN) against unbeaten Cincinnati (7-0 overall, 5-0 AAC).
The Bearcats bring the top-rated defense in the conference to the Bounce House and that will make for a much-ballyhooed matchup with UCF's high-flying offense.
It's a matchup of the top two offenses in the American Athletic Conference, with Cincinnati leading the league by far in both scoring defense and total defense.
Two years ago, ESPN College Game Day brought its show to Orlando when the Bearcats came to town. UCF fans that night celebrated a resounding 38-13 triumph to keep the Knights unbeaten and hand the visitors only their second defeat of the fall.
It's a rivalry that has developed into one of the AAC's best.
Expect the Bounce House to be bouncing.