Players had Twitter handles on the back of their uniforms instead of last names
ABOVE VIDEO: UCF head football coach Gus Malzahn speaks to the media following the Knights’ 2021 Spring Game at the Bounce House.
ORLANDO, FLORIDA (UCF Knights) – Knight Nation was treated to a little sun, some blue skies, and a lot of exciting football, as the UCF football team completed its first spring season under new head coach Gus Malzahn with the 2021 UCF Football Spring Game Saturday afternoon at the Bounce House.
With nearly half the team wearing black, the other half in white, and a few in grey for safety, almost all the Knights had their Twitter handles on the back of their uniforms instead of last names for this weekend’s spring game.
“We think the future of college football is here,” Malzahn said after the game. “We’ve got 322,000 living alumni, the average age is 36, they’re all on social media. This is the new age of personal branding and we’re going to embrace it.”
Then the excitement started quickly on the field as well, as quarterback Dillon Gabriel led his team down the field for a first-quarter score to take the early lead. Running back R.J. Harvey punched it in from one yard out to pick up the first points of the game.
The second quarter saw four more touchdowns, as the black team took a 27-7 lead into the break.
Harvey scored again from nine yards out, and then Gabriel found receiver Ryan O’Keefe for a 17-yard score. With less than two minutes to play, Gabriel led his squad down the field and found Harvey for a 3-yard touchdown pass with just 17 seconds left in the second quarter.
Gabriel didn’t play in the second half, finishing with 191 yards on 17-of-22 passing and two touchdowns. He also caught a pass on one of a couple of trick plays on the day. O’Keefe caught a lateral pass from Gabriel behind the line of scrimmage and then got it back to Gabriel on a dime to complete the 22-yard play.
“I feel really good,” Gabriel said after the game. “Looking back, the growth we’ve made (this spring) is night and day. The way we were able to just take that knowledge and put it on the field…I’m really proud of our guys.”
ABOVE VIDEO: UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel speaks to the media following the 2021 UCF Football Spring Game on Saturday at the Bounce House.
The white team’s lone score in the first half came on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Quadry Jones to Damarius Good.
The second half went to a running clock, but there was still enough time for the two teams to combine for two more touchdowns and a made field goal in the final 24 minutes of action.
Quarterback Parker Navarro scored on the ground from seven yards out and Daniel Obarski hit from 29 yards for the white team in the third quarter, while quarterback Mikey Keene found tight end Charlie Browder from 18 yards out for a touchdown for the black team in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the black team came away with the 34-17 victory, and the Knights came out of Saturday with a successful first spring under Malzahn.
“I’m proud of our team. It was an outstanding spring,” Malzahn said. We challenged them physically, mentally. We practiced four days a week for four straight weeks, and we got after it. Today it was great. The guys were flying around. They played hard. They played for each other. It was great to be in front of our crowd.”
Defensively, Anthony Montalvo recorded 2.5 sacks, Keenan Hester had a sack, and Landon Woodson recorded a half a sack. Tatum Bethune, Derek Gainous, Tre’mon Morris-Brash, Noah Hancock, and Kadeem Leonard all recorded tackles-for-loss in the game.
Quadric Bullard led all players with eight tackles, while Bethune and Shadrick-Harris each had six. Zamari Maxwell, Corey Thornton and Jermaine McMillian each had one breakup in the contest.
Jones finished with 130 passing yards, while Keene had 99. Bentavious Thompson rushed for 48 yards, Harvey finished with 33, and Johnny Richardson had 67. Richardson also had 70 receiving yards for a total of 137 yards in the game.
O’Keefe led all receivers with 83 yards on six catches. Twelve different Knights had at least two receptions on the day.
“We went out there and showed that just because certain people left, we didn’t miss a beat,” O’Keefe said. “We’re still going to be the same UCF offense. We’re still going to make plays. We’re going to do our thing.”
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