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With the tough road loss against the Louisville Cardinals (2-1) last Friday, the UCF Knights were left reeling beyond merely losing the first game of the Gus Malzahn era.
Leading up to that contest, UCF as a program was at arguably its highest point in the past few seasons. Terry Mohajir took over to replace Danny White. Mohajir hired Malzahn as a former SEC coach and with that came several transfers like edge rusher BigKat Bryant and running back Isaiah Bowser. This then led in part to the comeback victory over Boise State, which occurred the day before the announcement of joining the Big XII Conference.
But once the clock struck 00:00 in Louisville, it was a different story. The only Power 5 match on this year’s schedule was in the “L” column, the chances for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance looked more difficult, and the laundry list of injuries included team leader and veteran starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel.
“You look through three games, we’ve experienced probably as much or more than probably any team in college football,” said Coach Malzahn. “With different scenarios; the ups and downs, the highs and the lows, and everything that goes with that. But because we have great leadership, I really believe we’ll grow. We’ll use those tough times as a positive moving forward. That’s really what it’s all about.”
One of those positives being Mikey Keene taking an opportunity to put in some starts to not only prepare him to be a better backup to Gabriel in the future but to prepare him as a potential candidate as the future starter for the Knights. The bye week gives the true freshman an opportunity to sharpen his chemistry with the starters, but also for other starters like Bowser and center Matt Lee to fully recover and support him going into the Navy game in Annapolis on October 2nd.
Also, Gabriel’s broken clavicle has occurred within four games of 2021 competition. This means he doesn’t lose a year of eligibility. This is more potential time he could be taking starting snaps as field general for UCF in the Big XII conference depending on when that transition is completed.
Obviously, no fan likes losing a heartbreaking game. But as time passes, what seems like an obvious setback still has plenty of opportunities to render dividends not only later in this season, but in seasons to come. What it will all come down to is how Malzahn and his players continue to grow as members of the Black and Gold.