The Knights ventured into California in search of gold, but will return to the Sunshine State having lost three consecutive games for the first time since 2011.
UCF (0-2, 0-0 in AAC) avoided being shut out with a late fourth-quarter touchdown, but dropped its second game of the season, 31-7, to the Stanford Cardinal (1-1, 0-0 in Pac-12) Saturday night.
After losing starting quarterback Justin Holman to a hand injury on the first drive of the game, UCF turned to true freshman Bo Schneider and redshirt freshman Tyler Harris to lead the offense from the pocket.
“We had to get those two freshman quarterbacks ready to play,” head coach George O’Leary said in postgame press release. “They went in there and really did a decent job.”
Schneider, who recorded 3,492 yards and 45 touchdowns in his senior season at Jesuit High School, finished 7-for-20 with 48 yards and an interception in his collegiate debut.
Harris replaced the freshman with nine minutes remaining in the game. He went 7-for-15 with 96 yards and connected on a touchdown with wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith with 1:22 left in the game. It was each player’s first collegiate score.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan threw a 53-yard pass to Michael Rector on a flea-flicker to put the Cardinal up 7-0 with 4:23 remaining in the second quarter. He finished with 341 yards and three touchdowns on 17-for-29 passing, including a 93-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Smith, who recorded 104 receiving yards last week, tallied 42 yards and the lone, shutout-dodging touchdown for the Knights. Jordan Akins finished with 49 yards on five receptions.
After losing running back Dontravious Wilson to an injury in the season opener and William Stanback not putting up big numbers like he had in previous years, true freshman Taj McGowan got the brunt of the carries.
He didn’t see action in the season opener, but netted 67 yards on 20 carries against the Cardinal.
The Knights offense combined for just 181 offensive yards — 151 passing and 30 rushing — and coughed up the ball twice with a Schneider interception and a Stanback fumble. The Cardinal combined for a total of 491 offensive yards.
The Knights had no answer for Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey as he finished with 166 total yards and a touchdown.
Defensive back Drico Johnson led the Knights’ defense with eight tackles, including two for a loss.
“You’ve got to be able to run the ball to help them out; not put them just in a throwing action all the time,” O’Leary said in the release. “Your defense has got to play well. I thought they played sporadically in the first half. And the second half, I was very displeased with just what we did from a lack of tackle to a lack of pressure.”
The Knights will return to Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 19, when they take on FCS opponent Furman at 6 p.m.
Victor Ng is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.