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To say that UCF Knights coaches, fans and players found plenty of disappointment in the football team’s 55-28 loss to the SMU Mustangs disappointing is obvious. Nonetheless, there are some bright spots going into the upcoming home game against the Huskies of Connecticut.
Injury was added to insult when linebacker/safety Bryson Armstrong was announced as out for the remainder of the season, as yet another of a long list of players missing time from getting hurt. But as much as last year’s head coach Josh Heupel imparted going “1-0” every week as a slogan before leaving to coach Tennessee, Gus Malzahn has been forced to repeat the mantra “next man up” on a seemingly constant basis.
When asked if this was a unique series of circumstances in his coaching career Malzahn responded:
“I think it’s unique for everyone [at UCF] with everything that’s happened; the injuries to key players. But it’s next man up. We’ve been saying that for a while. We’ve been preaching to our team and that’s what’s gotta happen.“
However, the good news starts in the excitement level at practice among the players. Coach Malzahn mentioned that having players as motivated at this time of year as the Knights were with all that has happened isn’t a guarantee for a coach in college football.
Some of the excitement could be linked to quarterback Dillon Gabriel practicing for the first time since UCF lost to Louisville in their second game of the season. It seems his broken clavicle has been healing well and the possibility of him returning to action in 2021 was discussed.
Running back Mark-Anthony Richards commented on observing Gabriel in practice: “DG looks good. He’s back out there just doing what DG does. Just seeing his process through the injury – just seeing how hard he fought to come back, I’m thinking that’s very encouraging for this team. Of course, he’s a leader, we all knew that.”
Richards himself was a high point Saturday, breaking 100 yards rushing with a touchdown. Considering the situation with Isaiah Bowser’s health status, seeing him get more carries in a ball game is another potential bright spot to look for in the Bounce House this Saturday at 4:00 pm EST.