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Orlando, Florida – There was hype and hullabaloo surrounding the UCF Knights (2-0) and their recent acceptance into the Big XII this week. But somewhere in there was an actual football game where the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman (0-1) were dominated, 63-14.
The Knights came out trying to make a good first impression for new eyes that might be drawn from the recent arrival to the Power 5 conferences.
While all the hype surrounding the offense at the open of the season was the return of Dillion Gabriel for a third year under center, it is Isaiah Bowser who has stolen the show in the first few games of 2021. The former Northwestern running back burned the Wildcats scoring four touchdowns on 12 carries for 59 yards in the first half alone. This led to a 35-7 score going into halftime.
That’s not to say Gabriel didn’t execute throwing the football. The junior quarterback was 25-for-38 with 332 yards passing and two passing touchdowns. The Knights field general also recorded a career-long rushing score good for 44 yards.
One of those passing touchdowns was to backup running back Trillion Coles who led the team in rushing. He carried 11 times for 78 yards and a second touchdown on the ground.
While it may be easy to write off this particular game as a creampuff for UCF, head coach Gus Malzahn showed appreciation for how focused a performance his squad put in from top to bottom.
“Looking at it, I think we did get better as a team,” said Malzahn. “We had zero turnovers, eight consecutive drives that we scored. I think we were pretty balanced. [The] defense after three or four possessions started to settle down. . . We’re going to have to improve our third-down defense — there’s no doubt about that. But overall, I’m happy with the win.”
Malzahn also mentioned that there were “a lot of teams around the country that play lesser teams and sloped around.” Considering the number of substitutes that made it into the game and executed with few mistakes, this is a remarkable occurrence.
This holds even more true compared to other games that were played elsewhere the same day such as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish struggling with the Toledo Rockets Football or the Florida State Seminoles losing to Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
Regardless of whatever talk of Big XII membership is in the public, Malzahn and players alike have made it clear that they were focused on Saturday nights’ game and next week’s road trip to take on the Louisville Cardinals (1-1).