After opening the 2020 season with a 49-21 victory at Georgia Tech, No. 13 UCF kept it rolling Saturday afternoon with a 51-28 road victory over East Carolina, extending its record to 2-0 and earning its first AAC win of the season.
Before we shift focus to the Knights’ home opener this Saturday against Tulsa (0-1, 0-0 AAC), it’s time for the second edition of Knights of the Round Table. If you missed last week’s, check here.
A reminder of how this works: 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. OK, let’s go.
Seat 1: Marlon Williams (13 catches, 136 yards, 10.5 AVG)
Marlon Williams was in Seat 1 last week, so why not keep him here after he once again led the team in receptions? He hauled in 13 passes for 136 yards, averaging 10.5 yards per catch. And despite failing to find the end zone, he was a constant in the Knights’ passing attack, which once again led the way in an explosive day for the offense. His longest catch of the day was a big one and it came on UCF’s first drive of the afternoon.
Down 7-0, the offense inexplicably started its opening drive with four consecutive false starts. But on 1st & 30, Williams caught a 24-yard pass from Dillon Gabriel to set up a conversion on the next play. On a day that included 51 points and 632 yards of offense, a first-quarter catch may be easily forgotten. But that was a big one.
Seat 2: Richie Grant (3 tackles, FR, INT)
The UCF defense may have allowed 28 points and 459 yards, but its performance wasn’t void of big plays. A couple of those came from none other than safety Richie Grant, who is no stranger to forcing turnovers. The first one he was a part of came early on in the game, with linebacker Eriq Gilyard forcing a fumble that Grant recovered in ECU territory.
That set up a field goal that gave the Knights their first lead of the afternoon, one they didn’t relinquish. His second turnover of the day was an interception, and while it came with the game well in hand, it was still a nice play he made on a ball thrown up into the end zone. UCF’s defense has some work to do, sure, but with playmakers like Grant in the secondary, there’s reason to be confident in the group that defensive coordinator Randy Shannon has to work with.
Seat 3: Jaylon Robinson (9 catches, 150 yards, 2 TD, 16.7 AVG)
With usual No. 2 receiver Tre Nixon sidelined for Saturday’s game, the Knights needed someone else to step up. Luckily, Jaylon Robinson was more than ready after a six-catch, 105-yard performance last week. He was an even bigger factor this week against the Pirates, bringing in nine catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns, with the first coming from 64 yards out to put UCF up 20-7 after what was a slow start to the game for a typically quick-starting offense.
The Oklahoma transfer, who sat out last year due to transfer rules, later caught a nine-yard score to extend the Knights’ lead to 41-7. His speed makes him extremely dangerous for opposing defenses, and through two weeks, it’s clear he has a strong connection with Dillon Gabriel. Whether Nixon returns to the lineup soon or not, it’s safe to expect a lot of production in 2020 for Robinson.
Seat 4: Eriq Gilyard (6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, FF, FR)
Speaking of making plays on defense, Eriq Gilyard was a big part of UCF’s defensive effort on Saturday. Two of his six tackles went for losses, plus he played a part in two first-half fumbles that halted ECU’s offensive rhythm. After a first-down catch on the Pirates’ third drive of the game, Gilyard knocked the ball loose, allowing Grant to recover it. That led to the Knights’ first lead of the game.
Later in the half, with UCF’s offense still struggling to find its own groove, Gilyard came through again, recovering another fumble that was forced this time by Chris DeLoach. While the offense failed to convert that turnover into more points, the junior linebacker’s influence on the game was still significant. Like Grant, Gilyard will be a key contributor in a UCF defense that is looking to find some consistency in the coming weeks as the schedule really gets going into the big-time AAC games.
Head of the Table: Dillon Gabriel (32-47, 408 yards, 4 TD)
Yet again, Dillon Gabriel was the star for UCF, putting up another massive performance to guide the team to 2-0 on the young season. He, along with the rest of the Knights, started a little slow but eventually got going in a big way. At one point, the Hawaiian highlight reel completed 18 consecutive passes, setting a new program record.
The offense began to click late in the first half and into the second, with Gabriel ending the day with 408 yards and four passing touchdowns on 32-of-47 passing. He became the first player in school history to throw for 400-plus yards in back-to-back games, and he now has 825 passing yards and eight touchdowns through two games. If he continues to put up performances like he has in the first two weeks of the season, the sophomore’s Heisman Trophy campaign will begin to sell itself. Not to mention, he gets the seat at the head of the table for a second consecutive week. It has to be good to be Dillon Gabriel right now.