Orlando, FL- The Josh Heupel era has begun at UCF as fans were introduced to their new head coach for the first time at Spectrum Stadium in a showcase spring game that finished in a 17-14 score.
Prior to kickoff, the Knights unveiled signage at the Stadium for their claimed 2017 National Championship, as they were the only team to go undefeated last season following their 34-27 Peach Bowl victory over the Auburn Tigers. The signage will live on the side of the stadium along with signage of their 2017 American Athletic Conference Championship and is sure to be a heavy talking point about in 2018 as UCF looks to continue its winning streak.
Once the game began, however, we were given a unique scoring format for this event that saw rotating offenses go up against rotating defenses with alternating chances to score for each “team.” In a friendly competition like this though the score isn’t as important as the on-field performances, and there was a lot for UCF fans to be excited about for the 2018 season.
Returning quarterback McKenzie Milton was sharp completing 14 of his 21 passes for 183-yards and two touchdown passes. As a junior, Milton will be asked to step into more of a leadership role on the team to build off of last year’s success.
The hallmark of the UCF offense under former head coach Scott Frost was the fast tempo at which they played. Hueple also likes to run a fast tempo and Milton was asked how this year’s speed compares to last year’s saying, “I felt like we were going pretty fast, I don’t know if we were going the fastest we were going all spring but I think we can go faster than last year.”
The big breakout performer of the game was sophomore running back Greg McCrae who rushed for 57-yards and two touchdowns. There has been a buzz around his skillset throughout spring camp, and fans were able to get a great look at potentially a big piece to the 2018 offense.
What did McCrae attribute to his success today? A big win in the video game Fortnite this morning before coming to Spectrum Stadium.
McCrae on his Fortnite win, “I’m pretty happy. I came in feeling pretty good I had another Fortnite win before the game. That confidence carried over to the game.”
The UCF defense was also impressive, limiting the up-tempo offense to just 31 total points. The big play defensively came from Aaron Robinson, who picked off McKenzie Milton on a nice diving catch for the lone turnover of the game. The sophomore looks to make his mark as one of several underclassmen looking to step into larger roles this fall.
After the game Heupel addressed the media and talked about what it meant to run out on the field for the first time with his team, “It’s exciting to walk out that tunnel understanding the expectations that our team has, and our fans have too for what we are going to be about in 2018.” He continued, “This is a dream come true to have this opportunity and really, to have it a place like UCF.”
Overall this was a successful debut for Heupel and his team. With a new coach, everything isn’t expected to be perfect, but the execution from all aspects of the game from his players was impressive. For a team looking to build off a claimed national championship, fans can for sure be excited for what is to come once Fall rolls around.