UCF football: Defense shines in win over Temple

UCF football came into Saturday’s game with a slow start but prevailed. The Knights defense forced three turnovers during a 38-13 win over Temple on Saturday night.

Defense was the storyline, and it can’t go unnoticed.

“It’s a really unique way the game unfolded,” UCF coach Josh Heupel said. “For us tonight, there are things we can be a whole lot better at. I’m happy about this one and I think we came out relatively clean in terms of injuries.”

The offense struggled, especially in the first half. Temple came out with a three-man front on defense much of the first half, which seemed to make UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel and the offense look less threatening down the field.

Gabriel went 5 of 14 for 84 yards through in the first half of play including 0-for-3 on third downs. The team managed a season-low 169 yards in the first half, which is uncharacteristic for this UCF football team. The Knights went scoreless in the second quarter for the first time all season.

While the offense struggled, the defense came up big for the Knights for the second consecutive week.

Temple was minus its starting quarterback Anthony Russo, who was out due to COVID-19 protocols. The redshirt senior, who has started 24 games during his career, missed his third consecutive game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Re-al Mitchell earned his first start and did not play well.

During the Owls’ first possession of the game, UCF linebacker Eriq Gilyard stripped Mitchell of the football deep in Temple territory. The Knights took over, and Greg McCrae scored a seven-yard touchdown.

Gilyard’s fumble recovery was the 10th of the season by the Knights, who entered the weekend leading the nation in fumbles recovered.

“We just came out fast with a lot of energy and we made a lot of plays in the beginning,” said Gilyard, who finished with a career-best three tackles for loss along with a sack and the forced fumble.

During the next possession, linebacker Tatum Bethune stepped in front of a Temple receiver for an interception at the Owls’ 27-yard line. Three plays later, Otis Anderson bounced off several defenders before diving into the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown to push the lead to 14-0.

After relying on its defense in the first half, the Knights’ offense recovered after the halftime break. UCF scored 17 points on three consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach.

Gabriel was 7 of 8 passing for 184 yards and two touchdown passes to Marlon Williams. The sophomore finished with a season-low 268 yards, well below the nation-leading 417.7 yards per game he was averaging entering the game.

“It was just a unique game where the defense put us in a short field and then we took advantage of that,” Gabriel said. “It was a complete team win and any time we can put some points on the board, that’s our goal as an offense.”

Wide receiver Marlon Williams finished with four catches for 102 yards. That is his fifth 100-yard game of the season. He was joined by Robinson, who had four catches for 113 yards, moving him into a tie for third place on the school’s all-time single-season 100-yard receiving games. Both had outstanding games.

UCF finished with 147 yards rushing, led by Anderson’s 83 yards with a score.

The defense finished with four sacks, three of which were made by defensive linemen Josh Celiscar, Cam Goode and Kervins Choute.

UCF can now turn its focus toward this week’s big showdown with Cincinnati at the Bounce House. The undefeated Bearcats rank seventh in the nation. The biggest game of the year yet, UCF football is poised to knock off Cincinnati in Orlando, Florida on Saturday night in prime time.

Photo courtesy of UCFKnights.com

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