You know it's a fun night when the head coach gets a Gatorade bath.
Not going to lie, this felt really good 1-0 and couldn’t be more happy for these guys after 8 months of putting in work! Can’t wait to get back to Orlando & in front of Knight Nation in the Bounce House! #GoKnights #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/DHKJqcJ5oO— Josh Heupel (@coachjoshheupel) August 31, 2018
After the Knights' 56-17 triumph over the UConn Huskies, Heupel met with the media along as did quarterback McKenzie Milton, wide receiver Tre Nixon, linebacker Pat Jasinski and safety Richie Grant. Here are the highlights from what they had to say.
Head Coach Josh Heupel
On that Gatorade bath: "Unexpected. One of the assistant coaches came up, grabbed me, and I had no idea. I was glad they didn't get me over the top. They just got me on the backside."
On McKenzie Milton: "He's smart. He's competitive. He's a gamer, if you want to say that. ... He's continuing to get so much better inside of the pocket and getting his eyes in a better position and his feet in the ground that as good as he has played and as good as tonight was, I still think there's a ton of growth for him yet."
On DB Aaron Robinson, who was injured on the opening kickoff and had to be stretchered off the field: "He's going to be OK. He's going to stay overnight, and we'll monitor him to make sure he's going to be OK. Long-term though, they feel pretty good. ... Once we kind of knew that he was going to be OK, I think that allowed our kids to kind of settle back in and focus on the game. I thought they did a good job of handling that."
On how difficult it is to remain focused after seeing a player get injured as Robinson did: "It's hard because [the players] are like my sons. The time and energy and effort that they put into something, one, you don't want that taken away from them. And two, at the end of the day, it's really just about overall safety. So, you are concerned for him and just his well-being."
On backup QB Darriel Mack's 70-yard touchdown run: "That was awesome for him. I said this in the lead-up to the ballgame when we named him as the No. 2 quarterback, just how far he's come in a short amount of time fundamentally. ... For him to go out and really perform pretty well, throw the ball a couple times, get his eyes in the right spot, be accurate with the football and then make the big play with his feet, I think it's a positive for him. Hopefully, it encourages him to press on even more."
On the offense's bevy of quick-strike touchdowns: "Well, when your players execute well, you can go fast."
Did you have fun tonight?: "Absolutely. Yes! I have never not had fun. I don't know, I was really calm. I was, for whatever reason, probably less nervous than I had been as a coordinator."
On what he said to his players in the locker room following the win: "We celebrated. We had fun. We gave out some game balls and then I reminded them that we're 1-0. Let's celebrate it and then tomorrow, we'll move on to the next one."
Linebacker Pat Jasinski
On how it felt to start a new season: "It was great. Just getting out there pregame and then having that first snap, it's a feeling you can't describe."
On not being able to rest when the offense scores quickly: "Hey, when they're scoring, it's a good thing. I don't think anyone is upset going back out there quickly. When [the offense] is successful and putting up points like that, there's nothing you can complain about."
On seeing DB Aaron Robinson get injured on the opening kickoff: "It was scary. As far as I know, I think he's doing pretty well and he's going to be OK, so that's obviously the most important thing. But it was scary. Any time you see one of your guys go down and it's something serious like that, it's not the greatest way to start a game."
On the defense's missed tackles: "That can be Game 1 sometimes. ... But definitely, going into next week, tackling will be a big emphasis, I'm sure, in practice."
On the apparently seamless relationship between coaches and players: "The staff as a whole and Coach Heupel, they have done a really good job of kind of adjusting to us and getting used to some of the things that we're used to. It's kind of a give-and-take in terms of what we do on a daily basis because we were used to a certain way of things, and I think Coach Heupel has really done a good job of keeping some things a lot similar and putting some twists on things and making some stuff his own."
Safety Richie Grant
On opening with a win: "Oh, it feels good, man. That's all I wanted going back on the plane: a W."
On his thoughts when Aaron Robinson got injured: "That's hard, man, us being on a team. He wasn't a starter, but he definitely was going to be on the field for us and that's a big loss. I don't know how long he's out or anything, but we need to get him back."
On watching this offense score often: "It's normal. I'm used to it. I love it. I love going on kickoff 20 times a game. I love it."
Wide Receiver Tre Nixon
On how fun it is to play in this offense: "It is so much fun. It's a challenge to get in shape, I'll tell you that. But it's a lot of fun to play. Just constantly taking shots. How fast you go, you can just see the defense kind of get worn out, and you're like, 'I'm used to this. I do this in practice every day."
On what it meant to get his first collegiate start: "I just feel blessed. It's been a long time coming. Just knowing that Coach Heup and all them boys believe in me, it's a really good feeling."
On how easy McKenzie Milton makes it easy for him: "He makes it so easy. There's time where the play's kind of dead and there's nothing really going on and all of a sudden, he spins out to the right. Now you've got to go upfield ... He does an amazing job of just extending plays. That's what you want as a receiver."
On Heupel getting his first win as a head coach: "I'm so excited for him. ... You could see the smile on his face and how proud he was. That's just an awesome feeling, just getting that first win."
No sacks.— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) August 31, 2018
8 months in the making... pic.twitter.com/WO69RXRD1c
Quarterback McKenzie Milton
On Tre Nixon: "Man, I'm happy we got that guy on the team. Not just as a football player, but as a person. He's a light in the locker room. He's got a great smile. He lifts up my day. All offseason, him and Gabe Davis were in the indoor when nobody else was, putting in work, and it showed tonight. It's going to show all season. And by them doing that, those are the guys that bring out the best in the other guys, too. Brings out the best in myself and tries to push me to try to get better, too. We're blessed to have a kid that busts his butt that hard."
On how it felt to perform so well in Week 1: "Yeah, it was a lot of fun just going out and playing another game since January 1. I feel like it kind of went by fast, the offseason. I think that happens when you're having fun. We've got a great group of guys and it showed, the work we put in this offseason."
On the importance of making a statement in Week 1: "I think in any year it's important to get off on the right foot with a win. We talk about going 1-0 each week. I don't know about necessarily making a statement, but we're a good football team. We've got a lot of good players and I think under Coach Heup's direction or whoever's coaching us, UCF can be special for a long time."
On backup QB Darriel Mack's 70-yard touchdown run: "Man, that was cool. I told him before the series, 'If you take one and go for 80, we're gonna hit a little basketball shot and jump up together.' But I've seen that a bunch in practice from his freshman year. He's going to be a special player for this program for a long time."
On Heupel getting his first win as a head coach: "It was awesome. He got his game ball in the locker room and for a first-time head coach, that's a great feeling. The cool thing about it was he directed off to the players. He said, 'Richie Grant, this is your game ball; Nate Evans, this is your game ball; offensive line gave up no sacks, this is your game ball.' That shows what kind of person he is. He's all about the team."