Knights dominant in UCF’s 56-17 win
East Hartford, CT- College Football returned with a bang on Thursday night. The University of Central Florida ended last season with a win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl, claiming a National Championship and celebrating with rings and a parade at Disney World. To open the new year, #21 UCF’s plane to Rentschler Field was delayed a few hours. Still, they traveled to East Hartford to play the inexperienced Connecticut Huskies. The evening went mostly as expected for the reigning champion Knights.
The opening kickoff cast a shadow over the game. Keyion Dixon returned the ball to the 23 and Aaron Robinson did not get up. The red-shirt sophomore was stretchered off the field on his first play for UCF after transferring from Alabama. And UConn clicked running against a down team. The Huskies pushed the ball to the 36 and looked in control. Until Zavier Scott fumbled the football and UCF recovered. Immediately, McKenzie Milton and the Knights drove the ball 61 yards in 2:07 to take the lead for good. Adrian Killins finished with a two yard touchdown run. Only 2:01 after their first score, UCF capped a five play, 81 yard drive with a 34 yard pass from McKenzie Milton to Tre Nixon for their first passing touchdown of the year.
UConn opened up the second quarter with a 44 yard Michael Tarbutt field goal, and UConn matched a Gabriel Davis touchdown catch with a Tyler Davis scoring catch to keep it close. But the UCF defense held true to close the quarter. Otis Anderson caught a five yard touchdown pass from Milton, then Richie Grant intercepted UConn quarterback David Pindell on the Knight’s 10 yard-line to end the threat. UCF led 28-10 at the half.
UCF kept up the pressure in the third, with two more touchdowns. Anderson scored his second on a ten yard run, then Tre Nixon caught his second from Milton to seal the threat before the final quarter.
Early in the 4th, UCF flexed their muscles more. Milton completed a 36 yard pass to Greg McCrae for a touch down, then UCF’s back-up QB got in on the fun. Junior Darriel Mack relieved Milton and ran the football 70 yards for a touchdown. The run is the second longest quarterback run in UCF’s history, after Dante Culpepper’s 75 yd TD run against Kent State in 1997.
David Pindell ran in one final touchdown for UConn, ending the scoring at 56-17. This marks the biggest loss for UConn since their season opening loss in 2001 to the 9th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies.
While the Huskies were overwhelmed, they still have positives to take from their opener. David Pindell went 27-41 for 266 yds and a passing touchdown. He added 157 of UConn’s 220 ground yards. He’s the first UConn quarterback to pass and rush for over 100 yards in three years. Still UConn is a young team with many growing pains ahead. They played 17 freshman to open the season, 11 on defense alone. UConn’s schedule does not get easier. They travel to Boise State next week. Kick off at Albertsons Stadium will be on Saturday, September 8th at 10:15 ET, 8:15 MT.
McKenzie Milton finished the night with a line of 24-32, 346 yds, 5 TDs, and 0 INTs. Tre Nixon led the Knights in receiving yards, with 101 yds on five catches, two for touchdowns. Mack’s 70 yard run led all UCF rushers for the game. The next closest was Milton, with 50, and Greg McCrae with 43. Eight runners combined for 296 yards on the night.
Pat Jasinski led the Knights in total tackles (11) and unassisted tackles (10). He added one of UCF’s forced fumbles, with Richie Grant notching the other. Head Coach Josh Heupel was elated after the victory. “I thought we came out really well in all three phases. It’s a really mature group and they woke up ready to play. They played hard. Our players and coaching staff did a great job of adjusting to what we saw. Proud of what they’ve done here. Our goal was to go 1-0, and they did that.”
When asked about Aaron Robinson, Heupel did not disclose the exact injury, but noted “He’s gonna be ok. He’s gonna stay overnight and they’ll make sure he’s gonna be ok long term.”
UCF runs their winning streak to 14 straight games, longest in the nation. They’ve now won three consecutive season openers. The Knights return to Orlando next week for their first home game of the season against the South Carolina State Bulldogs. Kickoff at Spectrum Stadium is at 6 PM ET.