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Potent Quotables: What the Knights Said Following Their 35-24 Victory Over Navy

UCF piles up nearly 300 rushing yards to earn a win on Homecoming Weekend

NCAA Football: Navy at Central Florida
UCF QB McKenzie Milton rushes for a touchdown versus Navy on Saturday.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

UCF football’s 35-24 win Saturday against Navy wasn’t fancy and it certainly won’t win the Knights any style points in the CFP poll. But at this point, who cares? We know this team isn’t going to make the top-four playoff. All they can do is win each week from here on out, including the AAC Championship Game and give another highly ranked P5 team their best shot in either the Fiesta or the Peach Bowl.

Despite the close margin of victory, the Knights did take another step toward that goal today.

Cincinnati is next. And ESPN College GameDay, too? Hmmm...

Here are the highlights of what head coach Josh Heupel, quarterback McKenzie Milton, wide receiver Dredrick Snelson, linebacker Nate Evans and running backs Adrian Killins Jr. and Greg McCrae told the media following the game.

Head Coach Josh Heupel

Opening statement

“Proud of the way the kids played, competed for 60 minutes in all three phases of the game. Defensively, came out and started really fast. Did a good job of being dialed into our assignments early in the football game. Gave up a couple of plays as the game unfolded, but overall, proud of what they did in seeing the triple option there.

“Offensively, I thought really, overall, handled things really well. Structurally, [Navy’s defense was] completely different than anything they had shown on tape the entire season. I thought coaches and players did a great job of adjusting after that first series and finding a way to go score some points

“Special teams were solid today and just proud of the ability to go win one more.”

On how hard it was to adjust to a defense for which they hadn’t practiced

“It’s not easy. Coaches did a great job of finding the angles, finding a way to get a hat on a hat. Offensively, just being able to adjust. The guys up front — the quarterback too with some of his checks — just did a phenomenal job of handling the different structures that they were seeing. Obviously, we relied heavy on the run game early in the football game because of the structure that we were seeing from them.

On playing Navy on Veterans Day weekend

“I have a great respect for Navy. Their head coach is as good as there is in the business, and they do things the right way. Obviously, what they do for our civilians every single day, what the kids are doing in going there every single day, I just have a lot of respect for what they do.”

On conservative playcalling throughout the game

“With what [Navy] were playing defensively, structurally, to me, it was our best advantage to be in the run game and be with our pass tags off of the run game. I thought we executed our pass tags really well when they were there. When they weren’t, we were handing the ball off and had some big runs; had some 4s and 5s(-yard gains), and we’ll take those, too. When you’re playing offensive football, in some respect, you have to take what they are giving you. If you’ve looked at it from up top, they weren’t giving us a lot of things down the football field. It was a light box, and that’s why we took advantage of it.

“The fourth quarter, you look at the seven-minute mark or whatever it might have been, it’s a three-possession ballgame right there. What you’re seeing on the other side, at the end of the day, we’re trying to play winning football.”

On Dredrick Snelson’s day

“Did a great job in the middle (of the field). Did a good job in the run game, getting a hat on a hat and being physical. I thought our perimeter screen game, when they were going to the outside receivers, he did a great job of blocking that. Then down the middle of the football field, when the opportunity arose, he and McKenzie took advantage of it and created some huge plays in the pass game.”

On McKenzie Milton’s performance

“Really good. Really accurate with the football, great decision-maker. The ability for him to adjust to something that had not been seen on tape within the course of the ballgame speaks to his understanding and knowledge of football. He understood why the ball’s getting handed off, and he’s really happy about going 1-0.

On Greg McCrae’s game

“I thought all the backs played really well today. Greg had a really good performance. AK ran downhill, had some really nice runs. Otis had some big plays as well. We run the speed sweep there in the fourth quarter, and he’s able to make a guy miss and make a big play out of it. I liked the way all those guys [played]. Obviously, we can’t put the ball on the ground there at the end of the first half, but pleased with the way they performed.”

On if the CFP talk from other people gets tiring

“I don’t get tired of it; we want to be in that conversation. We want to be in it every single year, and we’re building this program to have sustained success and be at that level every single year. Proud of what our kids do, the purpose that they approach every single day when they walk into our building. They’ll be excited to go play next Saturday whatever time kickoff is against Cincinnati.

On perhaps missing an opportunity today to win more convincingly

“We’ll take the win just how it came, man.”

On the defense’s overall effort

“I thought they played really well early. Were dialed into their keys, played assignment-sound. As the game unfolded, gave up a couple of big plays, busted a couple things, missed a couple tackles. But overall gave us the ability to go win a football game.”

Wide Receiver Dredrick Snelson

On what he saw on his two touchdown catches

“Man-to-man coverage. Middle of the field wide open. I just trusted the throw and [Milton[ told me, ‘Just be there.’”

On Navy’s defense presenting things UCF’s offense didn’t expect

“Yeah, they changed their whole game plan from the beginning. ... They gave us a totally different look. We didn’t panic or anything; we just listened to our coaches and executed the game plan.”

On if the TD passes caught Navy off guard due to UCF’s run-heavy game plan

“Pretty much, yeah. We were running a lot today, which they probably expected. They were waiting on the run, so the one time they weren’t expecting it, McKenzie hit me over the middle. Executed the play call by Coach Heupel.”

On what he saw from Milton’s performance

“McKenzie is just an awesome quarterback. He adjusts to any coverage, any team, anything you throw at him. He’s a great quarterback, and he’s going to put the ball where I need it. He did that today. He executed perfectly.”

On if Coach Heupel ever talks about the CFP rankings

“No, we don’t talk about that at all. Not at all. I don’t even think about the playoffs, to be honest. I don’t even talk about it.”

Quarterback McKenzie Milton

On how different Navy’s defense looked from the practice week

“They basically played the same defense the whole game ... It was a good adjustment. I think they just tried to keep everything in front of [them], make us earn everything. The box was light, so we were able to run the ball all game. Hats off to our O-line getting push up front and the running backs running their butts off.”

On the run-heavy attack with the RBs

“If they are getting hits for 6, 10, 12 yards, you’ve just got to keep feeding them. We’ve got a stable of them. I think we’re the deepest running back group in the country with AK, Otis, Greg, Taj, Bentavious. Those are that can play anywhere, so those guys keep making plays, it makes my job a lot easier. It makes the coaches’, the playcallers’ (job) a lot easier, too.”

On passing Daunte Culpepper as UCF’s all-time leader in QB rushing yards

“That’s a huge honor. Daunte’s obviously a legend. Not just here, in the NFL, so that’s huge. I’m pretty sure Darriel Mack will probably pass that up when his time comes.”

On the 34-yard touchdown pass to Snelson in the second quarter

“That was the only pass play of that whole drive. We kind of drew it up on the sideline, that exact play. ... We knew the middle of the field was going to be open. Snels ran a great route, stuck the safety, and it was wide open.”

On Navy’s discipline

“Those guys are a class act, starting with their head ball coach, Coach Ken (Niumatalolo). All those guys are just a reflection of their head ball coach and the way he carries himself. Those are great guys that we played today. They’re great young men and they’re going to do great things for this country.”

On his past with Navy

“I went on a visit. Like I said, they’re first-class, and that’s something that’s hard to turn down. You’re basically set for life if you go to that school.”

On his own performance today

“I thought we did pretty good on offense. ... In a game like this, your possessions are minimized, but I think we did the most with what we could. We might have left a little out there, but I thought, as a whole, the game went well.”

On if he’s concerned with how UCF wins games

“A lot of people act like games are easy to win; they’re not. The American Conference is very good. You see a bunch of these teams playing Power 5 schools throughout the year and beating them. ... It’s not easy to win games. Obviously, we want to put our best foot forward, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

Running Back Greg McCrae

On playing versus Navy

“It was pretty fun going out there and playing against them. Knew a lot of guys that were out there, knew the coaches that were out there. Being able to play them, especially on Veterans weekend, that was something special.”

On if he feels like he is in “the zone” with how well he has run recently

“Yeah, but that credit goes to my O-line; they create big holes for me to run through. All that zone that you’re seeing, that zone is the O-line. The O-line is in the zone.”

On if all of the CFP talk bothers him

“Nah. We’re just focused on what we can control right now and what we have at stake. This week, it was Navy. Tomorrow, it’s going to be Cincinnati.”

On ESPN College GameDay possibly coming to UCF next week

“It’s pretty cool. Like McKenzie said, I’m interested to see, if they come, how the student body will react. I know they’re going to be front row, signs everywhere. I’m just interested to see that happen. Cincinnati is a really good team. They played Navy last week and they put up a really good game against them. So, yeah, it’ll be an interesting game next week.”

Running Back Adrian Killins

On the run-heavy game plan

“I feel like the offensive coordinators and Coach Heupel, they’re just putting the game in our hands. We’ve got a lot of backs that are capable of doing anything, and any run can bust at any time. We love getting the ball. We just love making plays and helping our team win games.”

On the offensive line today

“The offensive line is phenomenal. They come in, day in and day out, and just do whatever they can do to seal the deal and keep McKenzie protected and make big holes for running backs to spill through. The offensive line is great, and I wouldn’t change them for nothing.”

On the success of the running game

“It’s great, because we see it every day in practice. We make crazy plays on the defense, and then to see it happen on Saturday, we already knew that play was going to happen ... because we executed it in practice. We’ve got a lot of great backs, like I said, and I’d be scared as a defensive coordinator or a defense preparing for us.”

On Greg McCrae’s standout season

“Coming into college as a walk-on, certain days can be easy, certain days can be hard for him. And to see everything just play out ... and a guy like him get put on scholarship, and he’s making plays in practice and it translate to the field on Saturdays, it just shows what kind of guy he is and what kind of character he’s got. He’s a team guy. He’s my brother. I wouldn’t trade him for the world either. He’s just a phenomenal guy and a great football player as well and a great person.”

On if pollsters realize how hard it is to win 22 consecutive games

“I’m pretty sure they do realize how hard it is because everyone is at your neck every game. They want to beat you on any given day, so to be on this winning streak, it’s pretty cool. But at the same time, we know what’s at hand and we’re trying to win championships here.”

Linebacker Nate Evans

On preparing for Navy’s triple-option offense

“You get a select few days to prepare for those guys. They are well-disciplined; if you’re off by an inch on your run fit, it could bust, and that happened today against us. Preparing for them was a challenging preparation week, but we got to it, and we came out with this dub.”

On judging the defense’s performance today

“I’m happy with this win. That’s really all that matters. Of course, through all aspects of the game — offense, defense and special teams — we have so much room to improve. We’re just going to get in the film room Monday, get back on the practice field and go 1-0 next week.”

On if this game felt more physical than others

“Every game is a physical game. After the game, you feel the same way as you would (facing) South Carolina State or Navy. Of course, those guys are very physical. They have a big back, No. 38; me and him kind of got cool throughout the game. They had some real fast wings, too, but a real physical team.”