ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida must rebound from a regular-season loss for the first time since 2016 and avoid overconfidence when it hosts rebuilding Connecticut on Saturday night in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams. The 23rd-ranked Knights trailed by three touchdowns early and rallied to go up 10 points before coughing up the lead in a 35-34 loss at Pittsburgh last week to end a 25-game, regular-season win streak.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: UCF -43
"It's been a long time since our players have felt that during the course of regular-season play," UCF coach Josh Heupel told reporters. "It's important in that moment to know that it hurts, but to understand that doesn't define the entire season. The high, lofty goals, aspirations of this team. None of that changes." The Knights will look to get better play from their offensive line, which allowed six sacks and could not help a rushing attack that produced just 2.5 yards per carry last week, and freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel hopes to recover from his first two interceptions. UConn, which lost 56-17 at home against UCF last year, showed some promise by scoring the first 13 points against Illinois in a 31-23 loss before getting routed 38-3 at Indiana last week and will have an even more difficult challenge Saturday. "Right now I'm more worried about us than I am them," Huskies coach Randy Edsall told reporters. "Because if we don't get to playing the kind of football that we want to play, it doesn't matter who we're playing."
ABOUT CONNECTICUT (1-2, 0-0 AAC)
Freshman quarterback Jack Zergiotis had a solid debut against Illinois (21-of-31, 275 yards) before struggling in his first collegiate road test last week (14-of-28, 90), but a rushing attack that managed just 2.3 yards per carry against Indiana didn't help. "I've just got to get him to settle down," Edsall said of his quarterback. "Now that he's had this experience I would expect him to be better on the road, but we've got to get everyone else around him better." Junior Kevin Mensah leads the Huskies with 205 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground while freshman receiver Cameron Ross boasts seven catches for 115 yards and senior running back Art Thompkins (team-high nine receptions) are also threats.
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (3-1, 0-0)
Gabriel had his moments against Pittsburgh with 338 yards through the air, but was not nearly as sharp (25-of-42) as the previous week against Stanford (22-of-30) and had trouble dealing with pressure in the pocket. Senior Adrian Killins Jr. had 46 yards to go along with a touchdown and junior Greg McCrae added 40 of his team-high 298 yards last Saturday as the Knights struggled to give their freshman quarterback some breathing room with a consistent rushing attack. Gabriel has plenty of solid targets to turn to, led by juniors Gabriel Davis (20 receptions, 380 yards, five TDs) and Tre Nixon (18, 285, two) while senior Jacob Harris is averaging 31.4 yards on five catches with one score.
1. Killins is 211 shy of becoming the seventh UCF player with 4,000 career all-purpose yards.
2. UConn senior TE Donovan Williams sat out the Indiana game with an undisclosed injury and is questionable.
3. The Knights have won the last three meetings and four of six all time, outgaining the Huskies 652-486 in last year's contest.
PREDICTION: Central Florida 59, Connecticut 13