Well, UCF Football is officially back after what seemed like the longest offseason in the history of the world. The Knights returned to action on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta and walked away with a 49-21 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, starting off the season 1-0.
Before we transition our attention to the upcoming matchup between UCF and ECU, it’s time to introduce a new weekly feature: Knights of the Round Table.
After each of UCF’s games, we’ll decide which Knights were the top performers, and those guys will get a seat at that week’s round table. The top performer will fittingly get the seat at the head of the table. Sounds simple enough, right? This is obviously extremely prestigious, so let’s not waste any more time. Let’s see who earned their seats in Week 1’s win over Georgia Tech:
Seat 1: Marlon Williams (10 catches, 154 yards, 2 TD)
When Gabriel Davis sat out last year’s bowl win over Marshall, it was Marlon Williams who stepped up and had a huge game. This past weekend in UCF’s first regular season game without Davis, Williams came through again. He led the team in catches and yards, serving as Dillon Gabriel’s go-to guy.
On a day that involved impressive performances from a few different Knights receivers, the senior stood out on another level. After being overshadowed for much of his UCF career by the likes of Davis, as well as Dredrick Snelson and Tre’Quan Smith before him, it appears that Williams is primed for a huge year in 2020.
Seat 2: Otis Anderson (18 carries, 88 yards, TD; 3 catches, 21 yards)
The Knights’ do-it-all running back was a huge spark for the offense on Saturday, starting off what he has branded as his “farewell tour” on the right foot. He was the team’s leading rusher, plus he found the end zone to cap off what was perhaps UCF’s biggest drive of the game.
After the Yellow Jackets had cut the Knights’ lead to 28-21 in the fourth quarter, Josh Heupel’s team needed some “juice.” Who better to provide it than the Juice himself? After a big throw from Gabriel to Williams got UCF to the Georgia Tech 30-yard line, Anderson took it from there. He picked up 23 yards to the 7-yard line, added six on his next carry and then punched it in from one yard out to extend his team’s lead back to two touchdowns.
Seat 3: Josh Celiscar (2 tackles, FF, FR, INT)
True freshman defensive lineman Josh Celiscar announced his arrival on the collegiate stage in a big way on Saturday. With Georgia Tech threatening to break a 7-7 tie in the first quarter, Celiscar made an outstanding play on a Jeff Sims run inside the 10-yard line, knocking the ball loose and recovering it to thwart the scoring threat. That was big enough in its own right, but the Winter Haven product wasn’t done.
Later in the first half, junior defensive lineman Randy Charlton tipped a Sims pass, and Celiscar intercepted it to set up the scoring drive that extended UCF’s lead to 28-7. It was an impressive debut for the freshman, though head coach Josh Heupel said his standout performance wasn’t a surprise to anyone within the program.
Seat 4: Tre Nixon (4 catches, 94 yards, 2 TD)
The UCF passing attack was as strong as ever on Saturday, and it was redshirt senior Tre Nixon playing a big part early. After Georgia Tech took a quick 7-0 lead on its first drive, the Knights offense needed a strong response. It definitely got one, with an eight-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by Nixon’s 49-yard catch and six-yard touchdown reception. After UCF had taken control of the game to the tune of a 21-7 lead, Nixon found the end zone again, this time from 25 yards out.
He unfortunately got shaken up on the play and didn’t return, but it says a lot that he made such a significant impact in less than 30 minutes of game play. He has proven to be a pretty deadly deep threat throughout his Knights career, and he shined again on Saturday. Now, UCF will have to hope that his injury doesn’t sideline him for too long. Heupel didn’t give any kind of update in his postgame media availability and given how tight-lipped coaches can be, it may simply be a wait-and-see situation.
Head of the Table: Dillon Gabriel (27-41, 417 yards, 4 TD; 8 carries, 30 yards)
As many strong performances as there were for the Knights in their season-opening win, there never really was a question about who stood out enough to earn the seat at the head of the round table this week. Sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel picked up right where he left off, throwing for 417 yards and four touchdowns while leading the offense to a 660-yard, 49-point day.
He did lose a fumble and throw an interception, but it didn’t matter. He was delivering big throw after big throw when UCF needed him most, leading to a career day. Strong connections with Williams and Nixon, as well as Jaylon Robinson, were apparent throughout the day. It’s no wonder he was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week. Is it too early to get some Heisman Trophy buzz started? For now, though, he at least becomes the first player to earn the seat at the head of the round table.