1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

UCF faces first real test of season vs. Stanford

But who will start at quarterback Saturday for the No. 17 Knights?
UCF quarterback Brandon Wimbush runs the ball against Florida A&M on Aug. 29, 2019 in Orlando. [GARY MCCULLOUGH | AP]
Published Sep. 14
Updated Sep. 14

ORLANDO — It doesn’t seem to matter who is running UCF’s offense. The 17th-ranked Knights score points in bunches and keep winning.

Three different quarterbacks have started games since two-time American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year McKenzie Milton was lost to a serious knee/leg injury late last season against USF. But one of the nation’s top offenses hasn’t skipped a beat.

Whether it is true freshman Dillon Gabriel, Notre Dame senior transfer Brandon Wimbush or Milton’s backup from a year ago, Darriel Mack, directing the attack, the Knights function well.

Stanford is the next team to take a crack at slowing down the defending AAC champions, who haven’t announced which quarterback will take the first snap against the Cardinal on Saturday.

“We have to prepare more for their scheme than who is playing quarterback,” Stanford coach David Shaw said.

“They’re very fast, very confident. They know what they’re doing and are very aggressive,” Shaw added. “They’re snapping the ball fast and we need to try and keep up. We have to communicate quickly. That’s the fastest tempo team we’ve played in several years.”

With Wimbush sidelined by an undisclosed injury and Mack on the mend from a broken ankle, Gabriel threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns to pace a 48-14 rout of Florida Atlantic last week.

UCF coach Josh Heupel said Wimbush might be ready to play against Stanford. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of Mack, who’s cleared to practicing again, seeing some action against the Cardinal, too.

Wimbush started and played well in a season-opening 62-0 victory over Florida A&M. Mack replaced Milton during UCF’s regular-season finale a year ago, then led the Knights to a victory in the AAC championship game the following week.

“I think he’s extremely comfortable with what we’re doing,” Heupel said of Mack, adding “he’s in really good shape” and throwing to receivers for a while.

Not that Gabriel has done anything to put himself back on the bench. It’s just nice to have options.

The freshman, who played at the same high school in Hawaii as Milton, has thrown for 372 yards and five TDs in two games.


This loomed as a matchup of Top 25 teams hoping to climb higher in the rankings until Stanford stumbled 45-20 at Southern California last week. It’s still a big game for UCF, which for the third straight season is hoping to force its way into the national discussion about who is worthy of consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Knights haven’t lost a regular-season game the past two years, but this figures to be as tough a test as any UCF has faced during the run.

“I think we’re pretty consistent the way we approach every week,” said Heupel, adding the Knights haven’t prepared any differently for Stanford than they do any opponent. “Our players understand this is a big game.”


Quarterback K.J. Costello is back for Stanford after sitting out last week with a head injury suffered during the Cardinal’s season-opening win over Northwestern In his absence, Davis Mills made his first career start against USC.

“Costello will get you fired up. He’s an established leader and player,” tight end Colby Parkinson said. “It’s nice to get a captain back to play.”


UCF has scored at least 30 points in 28 consecutive games, the longest streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 1936. In outscoring their first two opponents — Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic — 110-14, one aspect of the team’s success that’s been overshadowed is the defense, which had five sacks and 16 tackles for loss last week. The Knights forced at least one turnover in a nation’s-best 32 straight games before the streak ended last week.


Stanford won the only previous meeting between the teams 31-7 at home in 2015. The game Saturday completes a home-and-home agreement.

“They’re bigger, faster, stronger than the team we played a few years ago,” Shaw said. “They’ve done a lot, won a lot. They play the game fast and they play the game well.”


  1. USF point guard LaQuincy Rideau (3) was named to the coaches preseason All-American Athletic Conference first team on Monday. JONES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Bulls point guard Laquincy Rideau is a first-team pick on the preseason all-conference squad
  2. USF defensive lineman Kelvin Pinkney (96) celebrates the stop against BYU during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Suddenly, bowl eligibility doesn’t seem so far-fetched for the Bulls.
  3. BYU quarterback Baylor Romney (16) is stopped on fourth down by the USF defense during the second half Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Journal: The school also announces $2.5 million in athletic department donations, a good chunk of which will go toward an indoor practice facility.
  4. The Bulls come back from a 13-point deficit to win 27-23.
  5. USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) dives over BYU defensive back Tavita Gagnier (34) for the first down during the second half of the game at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Martin Fennelly: The senior running back has his second straight big game to help lift the Bulls.
  6. USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox (89) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against BYU during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The Bulls come back from a 13-point deficit to win 27-23.
  7. Florida Gators defensive back CJ Henderson (1) wags his finger after breaking up a pass intended for Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Jeff Thomas during the season opener. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Matt Baker: A running back duel at Clemson and why Jordan Cronkrite could be in for another big day for USF. Plus, Tampa Bay Times staff picks for week 7.
  8. BYU redshirt freshman Jaren Hall will become the first African-American to start a game at quarterback for the Cougars when they face USF on Saturday. JAREN WILKEY  |  BYU
    The freshman will become the first African-American to start a game at QB for the Cougars
  9. USF senior tight end Mitch Wilcox has 10 receptions (three of them for touchdowns) through five games. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The NFL draft prospect is coming off arguably his best game as a run blocker.
  10. USF defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary (center) said he doesn't expect BYU to modify its offense for new Cougars starting quarterback Jaren Hall. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Bell said the Bulls offensive line had its best day of the season at UConn