The Gus Malzahn era at UCF has ushered in two good weeks to start the 2021 season.
In addition to opening with a pair of wins, UCF was one of four schools approved Friday to join the Big 12 conference. The conference’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to accept the Orlando university, Houston, Cincinnati and BYU — perhaps as soon as 2023.
On Friday night, new head coach Malzahn and the Knights (2-0, 0-0 American) will travel to face Power 5 opponent Louisville (1-1, 0-0 ACC) in what should be a good test and a sneak preview of what lies ahead in the future.
Against Louisville — UCF’s only Power 5 regular-season foe — Malzahn’s bunch will bring a high-powered offense to the Bluegrass State that produced much like Ole Miss did against the Cardinals in the Rebels’ 43-24 kickoff classic win on Sept. 6.
Over its two victories, UCF has churned out 99 points and 1,244 yards using a balanced attack led by quarterback Dillon Gabriel that has resulted in 349.5 yards per game passing and 272.5 on the ground.
While running back Isaiah Bowser tied the school record with four rushing touchdowns, Gabriel’s 44-yard TD run in the third quarter — dashing to the left sideline then reversing field and racing in for the score down the right side — even surprised Malzahn.
“The last time I saw one of those, I was coaching Cam Newton,” quipped Malzahn of his days coaching Auburn.
After being shredded by Ole Miss for 43 points and 569 yards, Louisville responded by limiting Eastern Kentucky’s offense to 235 total yards — just 86 rushing — in a 30-3 victory that wasn’t overly dominating but was never in doubt.
The Colonels’ points were set up by a third-down, defensive pass interference by Louisville’s secondary.
“Overall, I just thought our defense played well,” said third-year coach Scott Satterfield. “We gave up the three points on the one play when they had third down and we get the PI call, and that put them in field goal range, but that’s pretty much it. So I’m proud of that.”
The two teams have split two career meetings — the more memorable one on Oct. 18, 2013, in Louisville.
In a matchup of future NFL quarterbacks, Blake Bortles tossed a short touchdown pass with 23 seconds left in the Knights’ 38-35 upset of the undefeated #8 Cardinals and star Teddy Bridgewater.
Louisville won the first contest 42-21 at home on Nov. 2, 1985.