ORLANDO — Dillon Gabriel threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns to help No. 22 UCF rebound from its first regular-season loss in nearly three years with a 56-21 rout of Connecticut to begin American Athletic Conference play Saturday night.
The two-time defending AAC champions improved to 29-2 since the start of 2017, bouncing back from a 35-34 loss at Pittsburgh that stopped a league- and school-record 25-game regular-season win streak.
Gabriel completed 11 of 16 passes without an interception for UCF, and he threw TD passes of 73, 16 and 13 yards to Gabriel Davis while UCF (4-1, 1-0) built a 42-0 halftime lead.
Darriel Mack Jr. replaced the true freshman at the start of the third quarter. It was his first action of the season after sitting out the first four games with a broken ankle, which had opened the door for Gabriel and Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush to play early.
UConn (1-3, 0-1) fell to 0-7 in ACC openers and has lost 12 consecutive conference games.
Steven Krajewski came off the bench to throw for 273 yards, including second-half TD passes of 16 yards to Cameron Ross, 12 yards to Ardell Brown and 15 yards to Matt Drayton.
Mack, who was 9 of 13 for 97 yards and one TD, led the Knights in the AAC title game and Fiesta Bowl after two-time AAC offensive player of the year McKenzie Milton sustained a serious knee and leg injury in last year’s regular-season finale.
Total domination for UCF, as expected. UConn began the game with pair of runs that were stopped for no gain, and it was pretty much downhill from there. Starting quarterback Jack Zergiotis was intercepted on third down. Krajewski’s first pass was intercepted, too, and returned 48 yards by UCF’s Nevelle Clarke for a touchdown.
Zergiotis lost a fumble on the Huskies’ second possession, and Krajewski lost one in the first half as well, when the redshirt freshman lost his grip on the ball trying to throw a pass. UCF was up 42-0 by the time UConn drove into field-goal range twice in the closing minutes of the first half, only to watch kick Clayton Harris miss from 40 and 52 yards.
The Knights tumbled seven spots in the top 25 after losing to Pitt. Beating a 44-point underdog that’s dropped 12 straight conference games and 19 in a row to FBS opponents likely won’t do much to improve their ranking this week.
UConn returns home to host USF on Saturday.
UCF visits Cincinnati on Friday night.