Coming off of back-to-back losses for the first time since 2016, UCF returned to the Bounce House on Saturday afternoon and avoided a third straight setback, comfortably beating Tulane 51-34 to improve to 3-2 on the year.
With their first win since Sept. 26, the Knights kept their slim conference title hopes alive. Of course, they will have to win out to keep doing so, and even then, that might not be enough. But Saturday was a good start, with the offense continuing to shine and the defense finding some semblance of a decent performance.
Now at 3-2 overall and 2-2 in AAC play, UCF will hit the road this Saturday for a matchup against Houston (2-1, 2-0 AAC). But before we get there, it’s time for our weekly Knights of the Round Table feature.
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: Greg McCrae (25 carries, 162 yards, TD, 6.5 AVG; 1 catch, 15 yards)
The UCF offense once again proved itself to be one of the nation’s toughest on Saturday, and it was Greg McCrae giving it an immediate spark. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, he broke free for a 54-yard run, and while it only led to a field goal, it set the tone for a 51-point day that helped the Knights comfortably beat a quietly good Tulane team. McCrae didn’t stop there, though, going over 100 yards in the first half before finishing the day with 162 and a touchdown on 25 carries. With Otis Anderson missing for much of the game due to an injury, it was huge for the former walk-on to carry the load for the backfield and provide a strong complement to what Dillon Gabriel was doing in the passing game.
This is Greg McCrae’s second appearance on Knights of the Round Table.
Seat 2: Randy Charlton (4 tackles, 2 sacks)
The UCF defense has rightfully gotten its fair share of scrutiny this season, but it did bounce back with a better performance this week against Tulane. While no one would mistake this unit for a dominant one, it still came up with enough early stops for the offense to build a big lead. Randy Charlton was a key part of that effort, picking up two first-half sacks. The first put the Green Wave behind the sticks and led to the Knights regaining possession and taking a 24-14 lead, then the second ended another drive that preceded UCF taking a 31-14 lead. While a 340-yard, 34-point day won’t inspire much confidence in the defense, it’s big plays like the ones Charlton had on Saturday that will help swing games in the Knights’ favor.
This is Randy Charlton’s first appearance on Knights of the Round Table.
Seat 3: Kenny Turnier (3 tackles, 2 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss)
Speaking of big plays from the defense that helped turn momentum in UCF’s favor during the first half, Kenny Turnier had a couple of his own to complement the effort from Randy Charlton. Turnier, one of the more vocal leaders on the Knights’ defense, stepped up with back-to-back sacks to end the first quarter. UCF trailed 14-10 at the time, but Tulane was near midfield and threatening to extend its lead. Instead, the sacks cut the drive short and led to a punt to start the second quarter. After that punt, the Knights drove down the field to take a 17-14 lead and from there, they never looked back. Again, the defense wasn’t anywhere near dominant, but with the way the offense is going, it doesn’t have to be. It simply needs to make enough plays to turn the tide in UCF’s favor. That’s what happened against Georgia Tech and East Carolina, and it finally was the case again on Saturday, thanks in part to Turnier.
This is Kenny Turnier’s first appearance on Knights of the Round Table.
Seat 4: Dillon Gabriel (26-40, 422 yards, 5 TD)
If UCF was still undefeated, Dillon Gabriel would be getting some serious Heisman Trophy buzz. Even still, he deserves a ton of praise for the way he’s playing in 2020. The sophomore was magnificent again on Saturday, picking Tulane’s defense apart to the tune of 422 yards and five touchdowns on 26-of-40 passing. Per ESPN Stats & Info, he became the third player in the last 15 seasons to throw for 400 yards and five scores with zero interceptions in back-to-back games. Jared Goff did it in 2015 for Cal and Joe Burrow did it just last year for LSU, and both guys eventually went on to be No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft. Gabriel is playing at an elite level right now, leading the country in passing yards (2,178), passing touchdowns (19) and passing yards per game (435.6). It’s crazy to think that the Knights have essentially gone from one legend in McKenzie Milton to potentially having another in Gabriel. But for the first time this season, the latter isn’t at the Head of the Table…
This is Dillon Gabriel’s fourth appearance on Knights of the Round Table.
Head of the Table: Marlon Williams (9 catches, 174 yards, 3 TD, 19.3 AVG)
There have been plenty of bright spots on the UCF offense through the first five games of the 2020 season, and Marlon Williams has been one of the biggest. He was the biggest standout in Saturday’s blowout victory, leading the way for the Knights offense with nine receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns. He continued to show an unbelievable knack for making big plays, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch on his way to yet another 100-yard performance. He has now surpassed the 100-yard mark in four of five games this season, with his only time missing it being a game in which he finished with 98 yards. The senior receiver is up to 753 yards on the season, which leads the country by a decent margin (the next closest to him his North Texas’ Jaelon Darden, who has 689). Williams is well on his way to being the next great Knights receiver to play in the NFL, and at the very least, he should receive heavy consideration for this year’s Biletnikoff Award.
This is Marlon Williams’ fourth appearance on Knights of the Round Table and his first appearance at the Head of the Table.