Freshman Dillon Gabriel threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns in his second college start, leading No. 17 UCF to a 45-27 rout of Stanford on Saturday.
The Knights (3-0) scored on six of seven possessions, building a 31-point halftime lead in what was expected to be a much tougher test for the two-time defending American Athletic Conference champions, who won their first two games of the season by a combined score of 110-14 against Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic.
Gabriel completed 22 of 30 passes, including TD throws of 28 yards to Marlon Williams, 38 yards to Tre Nixon, 38 yards to Gabriel Davis and 1-yard to Jake Hescook. Greg McCrae rushed for109 yards and one touchdown for UCF, which has won 25 consecutive regular-season games and 28 of 29 overall since the start of 2017.
Stanford (1-2), which tumbled out of the Top 25 after losing 45-20 at Southern California the previous week, yielded four touchdowns in the opening quarter and 413 yards total offense in the first half alone.
K.J. Costello returned to Stanford’s lineup after sitting out against USC with a head injury and completed 21 of44 passes for 199 yards, one touchdown and an interception that led to one UCF score. Austin Jones had a 35-yard TD run and finished with 65 rushing for the Cardinal, while Costello’s 24-yard TD pass to Michael Wilson’s 24-yard TD reception trimmed the Cardinal’s big halftime deficit to 38-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Gabriel started for the second straight week for UCF, which entered the game with an unsettled quarterback situation, even though the Knights beat FAMU 62-0 and FAU 48-14 the previous two weeks.
Brandon Wimbush, a senior transfer from Notre Dame, started the opener before sitting out last week with an undisclosed injury. He was inserted into Saturday’s game for one play in the second quarter, losing 2 yards on a run on second-and-goal from the Stanford 2. Two plays later, the Knights settled for a field goal.
UCF’s quarterback situation was unsettled before Saturday only because Gabriel, Wimbush and Darriel Mack, Jr., who is practicing again after recovering from a broken ankle, have all demonstrated they are capable of thriving in the Knights’ high-powered offense. Mack took over last season when McKenzie Milton was injured and led the team in the AAC championship game and Fiesta Bowl, where UCF’s school-record 25-game winning streak was ended by LSU.
Critics of UCF’s success the past two years argue the two-time defending AAC champions play a relatively weak schedule, so beating Stanford is huge for the Knights. Pittsburgh is the only other Power Five conference opponent they’ll face during the regular season, so it’s important to make the most of those limited opportunities.
RARE TRIP EAST
Stanford played a regular season game in Florida for the first time. It was the fourth appearance in the Sunshine State all-time. The Cardinal played Clemson in the 1986 Gator Bowl, Penn State in the 1993 Blockbuster Bowl and Virginia Tech in the 2011 Orange Bowl.
Stanford: Returns home to face No. 15 Oregon next Saturday.
UCF: at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
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