Knights Beat Boise State to Open Malzahn Era

Postgame Notes Box Score (pdf)

ORLANDO - The UCF football team opened the Gus Malzahn era with a 36-31 defeat of visiting Boise State Thursday night in a delayed start at the Bounce House. Junior quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns, as the Knights won their season opener for the sixth straight season.

The Knights (1-0) overcame a 21-0 first-half deficit - matching a program record - and scored 23 consecutive points to earn the victory. The UCF defense held the Broncos (0-1) offense to no points and negative seven yards of total offense in the third quarter to take control of the game.

Newcomer Isaiah Bowser led the rushing attack with 33 carries for 172 yards and a score on the ground, while four different Knights scored through the air; Jaylon Robinson (6 for 140), Brandon Johnson (5 for 47), Titus Mokiao-Atimalala (3 for 19) and Alec Holler (2 for 29).

Originally scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. kickoff, the game ultimately started at 9:45 p.m. due to lightning in the area.


  • Boise State scored just over five minutes into the game on a 100-yard interception return - the longest against UCF in program history - and then made it 14-0 just over six minutes later. The Broncos extended their lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Hank Bachmeier to Kahlil Shakir.
  • The Knights fought back with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Gabriel to Holler with 11:23 left in the half, the first catch of the tight end's career. UCF then allowed a field goal to the Broncos, falling behind 24-7.
  • UCF used a late-second quarter touchdown - this time Gabriel finding Mokiao-Atimalala for an eight-yard score - to get some momentum heading into the break. The Knights then scored less than four minutes into the third quarter when Gabriel hit Johnson on an 11-yard strike to make it just 24-21 in favor of the Broncos.
  • The Knights ultimately took their first lead of the game with less than a minute to play in the third when Gabriel threw his fourth touchdown of the game, connecting with Robinson for a 21-yard score, making it 28-24. A safety on a bad snap made it 30-24 in favor of UCF.


  • Boise State battled back in the fourth, taking advantage of Gabriel's second interception to score a 7-yard touchdown from Bachmeier to Shakir and regain the lead, at 31-30.
  • Gabriel then led a 10-play, 75-yard game-winning drive that was capped by a 8-yard touchdown by Bowser on a 3rd-and-goal from the eight yard line.
  • As the Broncos charged back down the field, the Knights all but clinched the game when Dyllon Lester picked off Bachmeier at the Knights' seven yard line with just over two minutes to play.


  • Gabriel didn't throw multiple interceptions in a single game last season, although he did it three times as a true freshman in 2019. The Knights didn't win any of those three games two seasons ago. This time his teammates rallied around him to earn the victory despite the two hiccups.
  • His four touchdown passes give him 65 in his career and it marked the seventh game of his career having four or more touchdown passes. 
  • Gabriel threw for over 300 yards for the 12th time in his career, tying McKenzie Milton for third all-time at UCF in the category. It was also the 24th straight game he has thrown a touchdown, which is also tied with Milton for second all-time.


"I think the whole college football world saw it. That's tough to do. You go down by 21-0 at home against a really good team and to fight back, keep believing, making plays and answering the bell again. They just kept doing it and you could feel it on the sidelines. There wasn't any panic. I'm really proud of our staff too. Our staff did a really good job. Overall, it was a really, really quality victory that will help us moving forward."


"It felt great (to be back on the field). I feel like I had to get my feet in the dirt, get back acclimated. I feel like I picked it up towards the end. We never thought that we were down 21. We always thought that it was a 0-0 ball game. We just had to make a play – the next play, we need to win it. I feel like we attacked it with a great attitude and you (saw) what happened."


UCF Knights · 2021 UCF Football vs. Boise State - Highlights