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Potent Quotables: What the Knights Said Following Their 52-40 Victory Over Temple

The two teams combined for 1,300 total yards in a Thursday night barn-burner.

NCAA Football: Temple at Central Florida
UCF running back Greg McCrae dashed for 188 yards on 16 carries Thursday against the Temple Owls.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

For the second week in a row, the UCF football team was really tested. This time, at home by a Temple Owls team that was determined to play physical and challenge the Knights’ defense over the middle of the field. They succeeding on both fronts.

And still, even with Temple racking up a school-record 670 yards, even with UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton completing barely half of his passes and missing multiple wide-open targets, even with the Knights suffering injuries to a handful of impactful players, UCF found a way to win.

Here are the highlights of what Milton, running back Greg McCrae, tight end Michael Colubiale, defensive lineman A.J. Wooten and head coach Josh Heupel told media after this 52-40 win.

Head Coach Josh Heupel

Opening statement

“Just really excited and couldn’t be happier with the way our guys competed for 60 minutes. We talked about, going into the ballgame, knowing that Temple’s really well-coached. They’re playing really well and extremely physical. It was going to be a 60-minute ballgame. Going down at halftime, the kids are calm, have competitive calmness about them, believe in who and what we are, and just continue to fight, scratch and claw. Find a way to get on the right side at the end of the ballgame.

“I thought the defense played much better in the second half. Communication, the secondary busted a couple of times early, but we correct some of those things and find a way to make enough plays.”

On Greg McCrae’s performance

“Greg’s been really consistent throughout the entire football season. He does a great job pressing the line of scrimmage — you’ve heard me talk about that a lot. He delivers our offensive linemen to the second level. That’s why you see him create some open space when he’s in the ballgame. Good job running through trash, lowering your shoulders, moving the pile forward. His performance is critical to our success. He got a game ball when we were in the locker room.”

On if he thinks this game helped or hurt UCF’s cause in the CFP rankings

“I’m not even concerned about that right now. It’s our job to go 1-0 every single week, that’s that’s all we’re concerned about. If you can do that in college football, you probably deserve an opportunity to go play for something special at the end.”

On if he thought Milton was rusty after not playing for a few weeks

“He missed a couple of throws. He threw them really aggressive on the deep balls, too, which is how we want him throw them. Just a little bit off on on three or four vertical plays that have a chance to be touchdowns. The one that gets intercepted in the middle of field, maybe he just threw off his back foot a little bit.

“Did he have some time off? Yes. Am I pretty pleased that he performed the way he did? Yeah. Are there things that are going to be corrected? Absolutely.”

On if this was UCF’s most physical game this year

“It was physical. A ton of plays early in the first half. Typically, guys get nicked up when they have played a lot of football and start getting tired and roll up in piles or whatever it might be. [Temple is] a physical football team; we are, too. I think there was good hitting on both sides of the line of scrimmage tonight.”

On why UCF has been so good in third quarters

“I think our team has competitive calm. They are willing to come out and continue to play and compete. I think we have smart players that when we make adjustments as coaches, they’re able to go out and execute those things and do it at a really high level. That’s important.”

On if he’s concerned about the defense

“Yeah. I mean, there’s nobody here that wants to give up the yards or the points that we gave in first half. We’ll go back in tomorrow morning, we’ll work on that and we’ll get things corrected. At same time, you go 1-0, that’s hard to do in college football. So, we’re going to enjoy this one tonight and come back to work tomorrow.”

On the crowd support during the game

“I thought for a Thursday night, our student body was absolutely fantastic again. Appreciate everybody showed up. As we go down the rest of this month, it will be critical that we create a home-field advantage that will help us go 1-0.”

On the play of the UCF’s line versus Temple

“Those guys, as much as anything, they kept pushing. The quarterback scrambled and made a bunch of plays with his feet. ... But just overall, as the game kept playing, all of a sudden, our defensive line started imposing their will. You saw us create some sacks. It takes someone who is pretty tough and in great shape but believes in what they’re doing to go do that for 60 minutes on the defensive line. Really proud of the way those guys played.”

Quarterback McKenzie Milton

On if he felt rusty after his time off

“Nah, I don’t think so. You’re going to miss some shots, you’re going to hit some shots. That’s football. Tre Nixon, he’s so fast that sometimes it’s hard to judge where he’s going to get to. I think the second one, he kind of stumbled toward the end, but those are shots that I missed by a few inches. You’ll miss some this season, you’ll hit some this season. That’s just part of it.”

On the feeling in the locker room at halftime

i don’t think there’s much difference if we’re up or down at half. Our team doesn’t flinch when things are thrown at us like that, when adversity hits. They threw their best punch at us, we took it. We threw a punch back, they took it, and we just kept kind of trading back and forth. But it was a great football game. Hats off to Temple; they played a great game.”

On if UCF is motivated by its detractors

“I think so. I think we want to get respect from the teams that we’re playing. It’s not so much about voters, it’s about the team that we play that night, them leaving saying, ‘That’s a damn good football team we just played.’ I think that’s what it’s mostly about, just having the respect of the team that you’re playing, the person that you’re playing, the coaches that you’re playing. I think that’s what it’s all about.”

On if he felt anxious in his return to the field

“I don’t think more so than any other game, in all honesty. Kind of came off a short bye week as well, so I think everybody wanted to get out there and play. That’s how I feel every game — I always want to play. We call it ‘pay day.’ You work up all week to get paid.”

On what the past couple of weeks have been like for him

“I give a lot of credit to our training staff. They do a great job, not just me — getting everybody ready to play week in and week out. I kind of felt like I was ready to play (versus Temple). Left it in the coaches’ hands, and thankfully our O-line did a great job keeping me upright all night. It was a great game.”

Running Back Greg McCrae

On what this performance says about him

“Honestly, it’s just the O-line. They provide the holes; they’re there. I just took what they gave me. From there, it just took off. They provide the big holes, and I was going up to about the safeties untouched. When they give me that, it’s good.”

On if his speed surprises opposing defenses

“Yeah, but they watch film. They prepare.

On the general character of this UCF team

“We come out every week, prepare for each game the same way. We come with a 1-0 mentality. We’re worried about this week, not the next week. We’re not worried about the outside noise, anything like that. We just keep our head on straight and keep pushing.”

On if he feels like every carry can be a big play

“With the O-line I have, I feel like I’m able to score on any play. That’s a great O-line out there. They are great. If [NCAA Football video game] was out, 99 ratings across the board.”

On the Space Knight uniforms

“Oh, man, they were cool. I want to keep that jersey so bad! I want it so bad, but Rich (equipment manager Rich Warner) wouldn’t let me get it. I was like, ‘C’mon, man, please.’ But he wouldn’t let me get it. It was just cool to be out there in those uniforms. The numbers, that was out of this world, just like the uniforms. Just being in this predicament, being able to go out there, put on those uniforms, play a great game in front of this crowd was really something else.”

Tight End Michael Colubiale

On what it’s like to play in that kind of back-and-forth game

“Yeah, it’s fun. It’s a fun environment, especially with the crowd we had out there tonight. Any time you can get a big win against a good conference, it’s huge, and it was a really fun game to play in.

On what it was like to have Milton back

“Whenever McKenzie’s back there, he does a great job, and we always know the offense is going to roll, no matter what if he’s back there or if No. 8 is back there, too. It meant a lot tonight. He showed today that he can throw the ball down the field a lot. He did a good job.”

On his highlight TD catch

“I just had to turn around. I think McKenzie had to put it, I guess, where he had to put it. I didn’t even get to see it yet.”

On what the attitude was like in the locker room at halftime

“We never really get down on ourselves. We stay positive because we got into each game every single week expecting to win. The attitude of this team is amazing. We show that we can fight every week and we’ll continue to go 1-0 every week.”

On how physical this game was

“They (Temple) plays physical. I think their motto is ‘Temple Tough,’ so they really play like that. I think coach (Geoff) Collins does a good job with that defense.”

On Greg McCrae

“Greg McCrae is an awesome running back. He runs really hard, and I think he helps our offense out a lot. But I think one thing that helps our offense a lot better is the offensive line. They open up some big holes for him to run through, and he just does a good job getting those extra yards. He does a great job running the ball.”

On McCrae’s success as a walk-on (Colubiale was a walk-on as well)

“It just proves how hard you’ve got to work, and it’s finally showing for him. He does a great job every week, preparing. But the walk-on story, not all people can tell he’s a walk-on out there with how hard he runs the ball. I think he’s done a great job. I think he’s deserving of everything he gets. Every accolade he’ll ever get, he will deserve it.”

Defensive Lineman A.J. Wooten

On why the defense has performed so well in the third quarter

“We have great halftime adjustments, and we kind of just come together as a team, as a defense, and we realize that the things that penalize us are ourselves. We go against good offenses and we can’t kill ourselves, so we realized that and we fixed it over halftime.”

On stopping Temple’s two-point that would have tied the game in the fourth quarter

“When Kyle (Gibson) and me make the tackle, hearing the crowd just go off like that, it was a great feeling.”

On UCF having a target on their backs

“I just think that every team is going to give us their best. We’ve just got to match their effort, match their energy and play UCF football the best that we can.”