UCF handles ECU at home, 41-28


Nate Marrero

UCF quarterback Darriel Mack lines up behind center.

Nate Marrero, Sports Writer

The UCF Knights charged out to another great start as they look to rejuvenate their 2019 season with 35 points scored in the first half en route to a 41-28 win over the East Carolina Pirates to earn a much-needed win for their homecoming game. 

“[I] was pleased with a lot of what we did in the first half,“ Josh Heupel, UCF’s Head Coach, said. “Defensively we were dialed in and played aggressive football – attacked the ball in space. Offensively we were able to get going – obviously, the passing game was going really well early. I thought our guys did a good job of winning one on one. Dillon was good in the pocket.” 

Dillon Gabriel bounced back from a rough start against Cincinnati, completing 22 out of his 35 for 365 yards and two touchdowns. Darriel Mack also threw a touchdown in the 2nd quarter on a 33-yard pass to Gabriel Davis. 

Davis continued to prove that he’s one of the better receivers in the country, with nine catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. This was his fourth straight game with at least 100 receiving yards. 

“Just going out there and competing,“ Davis said on what led to his big performance. “We studied them really well this week – we really did prepare great together to know what was going to get thrown at us.”

Bentavious Thompson, Greg McCrae, and Gabriel each had one rushing touchdown. 

Eric Mitchell had a huge day on defense, with nine tackles – two-and-a-half for a loss – one sack. Nate Evans led the team with 10 tackles, with two of for a loss. 

“We do a good job of just feeding off of each other’s energy,“ Mitchell said of the defense’s performance. “From the front end to the back end, once the d-line makes a play, I feel like the linebackers want to make a play.”  

Antwan Collier had one interception. 

East Carolina (3-4, 0-3), started the third quarter on fire, scoring 16 unanswered points to cut UCF’s lead to 35-22. Fortunately for the Knights, they were able to halt the Pirates momentum with a 53-yard touchdown pass from Gabriel to Tre Nixon. Nixon had three catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. 

“It was a big relief,“ Nixon said of the touchdown. “Someone needed to make a play, we all knew that – it was a big relief to extend that lead a little more.”

Holton Ahlers threw for 313 yards and one touchdown for East Carolina. 

UCF has now scored at least 35 points in the first half of all of their home games this season. They’ll gear up for another big conference game, as they’ll go to Philadelphia on Saturday take on the Temple Owls (5-2, 2-1).