As the UCF Knights’ offense lined up to take on the Stanford Cardinal Saturday afternoon, the man under center marked his second career start and third collegiate game at Spectrum Stadium.
UCF freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel led the Knights to defeat the Cardinal 45-27, marking the 28th win in their last 29 games played, according to a UCF Athletics news release.
Stanford, a Pacific-12 Conference team, was unranked in the preseason polls but ranked in The AP Top 25 Poll at No. 25 by Week 1 and No. 23 in Week 2. After back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, the UCF Knights ranked No. 17 in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason polland currently sits in the Top 25 as the only team in the American Athletic Conference.
Gabriel was named as one of three quarterbacks from the AAC – with eight total individuals honored from the Football Bowl Subdivision for Week 3 – on the Davey O’Brien “Great 8” list, according to a Monday announcement by the Davey O’Brien Foundation.
He shares the honor with Ian Book, the Notre Dame senior starting quarterback who replaced UCF redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush a few games into the 2018-19 season. Wimbush came to UCF as a graduate transfer in January.
In Week 3, Gabriel went 22-for-30 on 347 yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinal, each going to a different receiver. The starting Notre Dame quarterback went 15-for-25 on360 yards with five touchdowns, nine carries for 46 yards and a touchdown to help Notre Dame defeat New Mexico 66-14.
According to the release, Gabriel finished the game with four touchdown passes that each went to a different receiver, which is more TD passes than any other freshman in program history. Throwing for 347 yards during the game, Gabriel threw more than injured quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for as a freshman in 2016.
Gabriel was named co-Offensive Player of the Week in the AAC’s Week 3 football honors released Monday. Gabriel earned the Knights’ first AAC Player of the Week honor of the season and became the second true freshman quarterback to earn the title in the conference, according to the release.
UCF junior wide receiver Gabriel Davis said the true freshman knows what he is doing and has been a great quarterback since day one.
“He prepares himself, he’s ready,” Davis said. “When he goes out there, he’s confident and that’s why he’s able to execute.”
Gabriel shares the honor with Navy senior quarterback Malcolm Perry, according to the AAC’s website.
Perry led Navy to defeat ECU 42-10 in Week 3, where he was responsible for a total of six touchdowns as he rushed for 156 yards, had four touchdowns on 24 carries and threw 5 of 7 for 151 yards to help secure the win.
The first recognition of Gabriel’s performance over a dominant Power Five team was noticed by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, which named Gabriel the national Offensive Player of the Week.
The designation – which includes weekly recognition of offensive and defensive players in the FBS – was selected by a panel of national media members and awarded to Gabriel due to his contribution in Saturday’s game, according to a UCF Athletics news release.
When asked about the media attention regarding his performance in the win over the Pac-12 Cardinal and how he handles the hype, Gabriel said he doesn’t pay attention to any of it. He said everything that is important is right in front of him.
“All I care about is what’s in the locker room, what’s in our building,” he said. “It goes from equipment, to trainers, to our strength staff, and our coaches and our team. That’s truly all that matters, I’m not focused on anything else.”
With the victory over Stanford, the Knights improved their overall record to 3-0 and moved up two spots – from the No. 17 spot in Week 3 to the No. 15 spot in Week 4 – in The AP Top 25 Poll released Sunday.
Looking ahead, UCF head coach Josh Heupel said in a pregame press conference Monday that Gabriel is “definitely going to play” when the Knights face the Pitt Panthers on Saturday.
Heupel said Gabriel earned the opportunity to be the guy behind center during the game against the Panthers based on his performance against Stanford, but no starting quarterback has been confirmed.
Heading into the last few days of practice, Heupel said the team will be ready to show they can compete with anyone come game day.
“[Pitt is] playing well in all three phases,” Heupel said. “We’re getting ready to play a good football team.”
The Knights face the Panthers Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Heinz Stadium in Philadelphia.