Photo by Megan Turner.

No. 22 UCF returns to Spectrum Stadium Saturday to open its American Athletic Conference schedule against the UConn Huskies, and UCF head coach Josh Heupel said the team is excited to be back in the Bounce House.

After facing their first loss since 2016 – and their 25-game regular-season winning streak snapped – Heupel said one loss won’t change the Knights’ competitive spirit.


UCF (3-1) and UConn (1-2) have matched up six times in the past, with the Knights defeating the Huskies the last three consecutive years and leading the series 4-2. UCF traveled to Connecticut last season, where injured quarterback McKenzie Milton threw 24-for-32 on 346 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Knights to a 56-17 victory over the Huskies.

Heupel said true freshman Dillon Gabriel will be the starting quarterback to open conference play for the Knights. This is the first time the second-year coach named the starting quarterback before the first snap this season.

Gabriel has thrown 63-for-104 on 1,057 yards and is responsible for 11 touchdowns and two interceptions this season. The true freshman has played in all four games, receiving the first snap under center in three.

UConn head coach Randy Edsall said in Tuesday’s pregame press conference true freshman Jack Zergiotis will be the team’s starting quarterback in the conference opener. The UConn freshman has started in two games for the Huskies, throwing 35-for-59 on 365 yards and three interceptions.

“You got to be careful because you don’t want to give the kid too much, too soon,” Edsall said in regard to the true freshman quarterback. “You don’t want to overload him to make it really hard on him with all the ¬with all the other things he has to do on the football field.”

Ending last season 1-11 in conference play and picked to finish last in the East division AAC preseason polls, the Huskies head coach said coming up with a plan to defeat the Knights is won’t be easy.

Heupel said the team the Knights defeated during the 2018 season isn’t the same team they will face Saturday.

“Big, physical on both sides of the line of the scrimmage. Slightly different in their scheme, a little bit defensively, from a year ago – a new defensive coordinator,” Heupel said. “At the end of day, I think in all three phases, our focus every single week is always about us and our preparation. Anticipating and studying our opponent, but also being ready to adjust during the course of play.”

Heupel said in Thursday’s pregame press conference the team has been excited to get back on the field following the loss in Pittsburgh and looking ahead at this conference game like it’s a new season.

“Everything you want is in front of you and it starts Week 1, right here,” Heupel said. “Conference play at home – it’s time to line up and play ball.”

Heupel said the team is excited to get back on the field and ready to play ball in the electric atmosphere – the Knights face the Huskies at Spectrum Stadium at 7 p.m.