Dillon Gabriel and the UCF Knights, try as college football fans and analysts may, aren’t going away.
Once again, UCF is nationally ranked and Gabriel, a talented dual-threat quarterback from Hawaii, is behind the helm. With longtime starter McKenzie Milton’s career halted by a serious injury, Gabriel stepped into the starting role and emerged as the future.
Dillon Gabriel had a strong 2019 season
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Milton McKenzie was a juxtaposition for the UCF Knights’ return to relevance.
While UCF developed a reputation for challenging college football’s norms in an unorthodox and demanding a seat at the adult’s table, Milton went about his business and developed a large following.
Then came a November 2018 knee injury that could have ended Milton’s career — and it’s one that he is still recovering from, nearly two years later. Milton’s injury threw UCF’s quarterback plans into a frenzy, but not for long.
True freshman Dillon Gabriel earned the starting job early last season and impressed, completing 59.3% of his passes for 3,653 yards, 29 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 13 games.
Gabriel also ran for 78 yards and four touchdowns, although his 1.1 yards per carry wasn’t indicative of his athleticism.
Gabriel played great against Georgia Tech
Dillon Gabriel and the UCF Knights only needed one week to show the sport is still sleeping on them.
Gabriel completed 27 of his 41 passes for 417 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception in a 49-21 victory over Georgia Tech.
That was the same Georgia Tech which defeated Mike Norvell and the Florida State Seminoles on the road on Sept. 12.
Unfortunately for UCF, they dropped two spots in the coaches poll. UCF rose one spot, to No. 13, in the AP Top 25.
Dillon Gabriel is putting college football on notice
Dillon Gabriel is talking a big game at the right time.
In a recent media session, Gabriel openly called UCF the “best team in Florida.” According to 247 Sports, Gabriel doubled down on those comments in another interview.
“You saw what happened last week, you can say we’re the best team in Florida. The team played really well … the offensive line, it all starts up front. They picked up a lot of pressures. The running backs did a hell of a job. Guys were making plays all over the field, so when that happens, you see what we can do.”
UCF is the third-highest team among Florida schools in the AP Top 25. Florida, which opens play against Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss on Sept. 26, is ranked No. 5.
The Miami Hurricanes, now without controversial backup quarterback Tate Martell, are ranked No. 12.
Florida State and USF are both unranked. Florida Atlantic and Florida International, neither of whom played through Sept. 22, 2020, are also unranked.
Dillon Gabriel thinks highly of his team and is giving UCF a similar jolt to the one McKenzie Milton once provided. In the process, Gabriel has carved his own legacy in UCF history as opposed to the man who replaced Milton.
UCF travels to East Carolina on Sept. 26 in a game that opens American Athletic Conference play. Gabriel needs to play how he did in Week 1 to avoid a road upset and his comments backfiring.