UCF rallies from 21-point deficit vs. Boise State, wins in Gus Malzahn's debut

ORLANDO (Fla.) -- UCF lost by 21 points against Boise State in Thursday's season opener. Coach Gus Malzahn realized that what transpired the rest of the game would reveal a lot about his team.
He and the nation learned that UCF's team is resilient. UCF won a convincing 36-31 victory after a three-hour delay due to weather. UCF achieved the biggest comeback in school history, and Malzahn was awarded his first win as Knights coach.

Malzahn stated, "That's difficult to do." "You lose 21-0 at home against an extremely good team. You have to fight back. It was evident from the sidelines. There was no panic. It was a victory of quality that will be a help to us in the future."

Dillon Gabriel, UCF's quarterback, threw an intercept on the goal line. Tyric LeBeauf returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. Boise State seized the momentum as Hank Bachmeier ripped apart UCF's defense, giving the Broncos an 21-0 lead.

UCF rallied with the remaining time in the game. Gabriel completed a touchdown pass right before the end. Malzahn gave a rousing speech at halftime, which was followed by several players who focused on one key theme: belief.

"We came into halftime feeling confident, so we just chatted. Malzahn stated, "Hey let's drive down the first quarter drive -- if it scores we win the game."

UCF pulled ahead when Gabriel passed an 11-yard touchdown to Brandon Johnson. This brought the score to 24-21. Gabriel threw another touchdown for UCF, but he also made a crucial error by throwing an interception that set up a wild last eight minutes.

Boise State turned that interception into a touchdown to win the game, 31-30. Malzahn said to Gabriel, in the huddle prior to Gabriel taking the field, "We're going out to win this thing."

Gabriel stated, "That just gave my confidence, you know? And it trickles down from the top but just that belief that that camaraderie was something that we built form spring to summer, and it's really showing," Gabriel added.

Gabriel drove UCF downfield, and Isaiah Bowser scored an 8-yard touchdown that gave UCF a second lead. Gabriel attempted to sprint into the end zone on the next 2-point conversion attempt but suffered a severe shoulder injury that kept him off the field for several hours. He said that he felt fine afterwards and was willing to do whatever it took to win the game for his team.

His performance, despite his mistakes, was crucial. He threw for 318 yard and four touchdowns. Bowser, a Northwestern transfer who ran for 172 yards and provided a strong run game that helped Boise State to lose the game late. Jaylon Robinson, a Oklahoma transfer, had 140 yards receiving and provided some impressive catches.

Malzahn's reputation has been built on offense. His arrival from Auburn was welcomed in Orlando, where he helped to promote UCF with the catchphrase "The future college football lives here."

With talk of a move to the Big 12, it would be a bonus for UCF football to build excitement again after a disappointing 2020 season. Malzahn was asked about realignment and said that he was too busy watching the Boise State football game to pay any attention.

Whatever happens, UCF still has a lot of work ahead of it to build on the win and keep Malzahn's potential.

Malzahn stated, "We put ourselves out here." "We set the bar high and told everyone what we were going to do. Now comes the hard part: actually doing it. We won the first match, and now we have an opportunity to improve our skills and become quite good.