UCF embarrasses hapless Cardinal football squad in a 45-27 thrashing

September 15, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 15, 2019

Freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel went 22 for 30 with 347 yards, four touchdowns and no picks to lead UCF to a 45-27 rout of Stanford in Orlando on Saturday.

A week after USC went down by two touchdowns early before going on to win by 25, Central Florida scored three touchdowns in the game’s first nine minutes and was never in any serious danger. The Knights only had seven points in the second half, but that touchdown slammed the door on what were Stanford’s already slim comeback chances.

Senior quarterback K.J. Costello’s return to the field after a scary injury in the season opener against Northwestern resulted in a three and out. The Knights wasted no time in their first series, an eight-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Gabriel’s 28-yard rainbow that junior wideout Marlon Williams caught in the right corner of the end zone despite being pawed aggressively by sophomore free safety Kendall Williamson. (The Stanford defender was flagged; naturally, the penalty was declined.) On the series, Stanford senior defensive end Jovan Swann was ejected for targeting, a decision that throws further doubt over the consistency with which officials apply that rule.

55 seconds after the UCF touchdown, Costello attempted a throw to Connor Wedington on third and 1 that ricocheted off the junior receiver’s arm and was caught by defensive back Aaron Robinson. The UCF junior initially appeared to have a 41-yard scoring return, but he was ruled out at the 1-yard line after video review. McCrae easily ran the ball in on the next play to give the black jerseys a 14-0 lead.

Following a Cardinal three and out, UCF moved 62 yards in six plays. The series ended with a 38-yard touchdown toss that looked very similar to the Knights’ first touchdown; this time, the receiver was junior Tre Nixon, who got a step on senior cornerback Obi Eboh.

The Cardinal response got off to an inauspicious start with a five-yard delay-of-game penalty. Costello then hit sophomore Michael Wilson for a 19-yard gain, and freshman Austin Jones immediately followed with runs of 15 and 5 yards. Jones capped the six-play, 65-yard possession with a gutty 35-yard run that featured a key block by Costello. Even so, his touchdown left the white-clad Cardinal in a 21-7 hole with 5:49 remaining in the first quarter.

UCF needed only 76 seconds to conjure up a scoring response when junior Gabriel Davis beat junior cornerback Paulson Adebo for a 38-yard scoring reception. When the first quarter ended, after approximately 70 minutes, the Knights held a 28-7 lead.

The hosts extended the margin to 31-7 on a 21-yarder by senior kicker Dylan Barnas with 7:37 to go in the second quarter. The drive was notable for a roughing-the-passer penalty against junior defensive end Ryan Johnson, who was initially ejected for targeting; the targeting call was nullified after review, but in my view no flag should have been thrown in the first place.

The Knights began their next series at their own 4-yard line, but their explosive offense quickly refreshed the downs. Following a holding penalty, the Knights line opened up a seam that enabled a 73-yard romp by McCrae, who would have had a 92-yard touchdown if not for a heroic effort by Williamson. The Knights scored on a one-yard Otis Anderson rush. Soon afterward, I tweeted:

Senior kicker Jet Toner booted a 36-yarder on Stanford’s first drive of the third quarter, cutting the margin to a still-execrable 38-10 with 8:17 on the clock. On the ensuing drive, sophomore defensive end Thomas Booker and senior outside linebacker Jordan Fox turned away Anderson on fourth and 1 at the Cardinal 25.

Stanford then mounted a 13-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in an acrobatic 24-yard touchdown reception by Wilson, who had to jump over senior defensive back Neville Clark at the goal line to make the play. The score, which came six seconds into the final period, drew Stanford within 38-17.

But any hopes of a rally were immediately dashed by UCF, which moved 67 yards in eight plays and scored on a one-yard reception by senior tight end Jake Hescock.

The Cardinal advanced to the home 17 but settled for a Toner 36-yard kick after three consecutive incomplete passes. That matched the final score of the 45-20 defeat at USC, although 7:57 still remained in this contest.

Both teams sent out their backups, which was probably a factor in the only further notable play. When Knights quarterback Quadry Jones lost the ball at his own 45, freshman safety Jonathan McGill recovered at the 28 and returned it for the game’s final score with 1:41 to go.

All in all, it was a dismal afternoon for the Cardinal, which looked average at best on offense and hapless on defense. With a home date against fearsome Oregon looming next weekend, Stanford will need to pull itself together or else suffer the first three-game losing streak in head coach David Shaw’s tenure.

Helpful links

Stanford-UCF team statistics — ESPN
Stanford-UCF box score
Stanford-UCF play-by-play
Stanford-UCF interactive box score — GoStanford.com
Stanford-UCF statistics (PDF) — GoStanford.com
Stanford 2019–20 football roster
UCF 2019–20 football roster
Game (and some other) tweets — @memomoment

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