No. 18 UCF, the first ranked team ever to play FAU at Howard Schnellenberger Field, waltzed into Boca Raton and ran away with a 48-14 victory in a game shortened by lightning.
“I feel as the head coach, that’s an embarrassing performance by us,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “It was a big game for a lot of people here, so I apologize to our fans, I apologize to the people who got us here, from the president down. That’s unacceptable.”
For the second time in as many weeks, FAU lost a game before it even touched the ball a third time.
No. 18 UCF’s quick-strike offense scored on its first two possessions, posting as many points in the first 5:30 as the Owls would score all game.
“If you play bad early against these guys, they do it a lot,” Kiffin said. “They’ll blow you out because the game’s going to go really fast and the game will get really lopsided like it did, Not very many positive things in the game. Really shocked. I would not have thought that.
Like the previous week, when the Owls surrendered 28 quick points to No. 5 Ohio St. before settling in, FAU’s defense stiffened throughout the remainder of the first quarter and for much of the second, but UCF (2-0) scored on a 39-yard Otis Anderson run in the closing minutes of the first half to take a 28-6 advantage into the break.
The Knights combined big plays with a bruising running game to pull away in the second half, scoring on a 74-yard pass and a run of four yards in the third quarter, and 28-yard run less than a minute into the fourth.
Reasonably stout last week in Columbus, FAU’s run defense had little answer for the Knights, surrendering 312 yards on the ground to what is usually considered a passing team.
FAU (0-2) moved the ball rather consistently between the 30s in the first half but the Chris Robison-led offense bogged down every time it approached the red zone.
Robison spent much of the evening trying to evade UCF defenders who streaked through a porous offensive line. The redshirt sophomore completed 18-of-40 passes for 177 yard. His lone interception led to UCF’s final score.
“They were blitzing us a lot and we didn’t really have a lot of time to throw,” Robison said. “We couldn’t really establish a run game so it was kind of hard to get started.”
UCF coach Josh Heupel surprised FAU by starting true freshman Dillon Gabriel at quarterback over Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush, the Knights’ Week I starter. Gabriel only completed seven of his 19 passes, but they covered 245 yards and twice found the end zone.
FAU had been hoping for its second sellout in Howard Schnellenberger Field history, but even despite program-record announced attendance of 30,811, empty seats filled the stadium as traffic issues – particularly at the new FAU exit from I-95 at Spanish River Blvd. – and long lines at the entry gate prevented as many as 10,000 from reaching their seats until UCF already had a two-touchdown lead.
Many FAU fans exited at halftime, giving UCF what sounded like a home crowd advantage for the final 30 minutes.
True freshman Larry McCammon’s fourth-quarter three-yard touchdown run provided the Owls with their lone touchdown.
Lightning halted the game with 4:20 remaining. Kiffin and UCF coach Josh Heupel met at midfield when officials announced the delay and elected not to play the final minutes.