For a game that had plenty of hype and storylines coming in, UCF Football's showdown against FAU on Friday night played out like your standard 2018 Knights football game: The offense was pretty much relentless -- aside from a second-quarter slumber -- while the defense mitigated its flaws by forcing three turnovers, something it has done in each of its first three games.
Here are the highlights from what head coach Josh Heupel and his players told the media following the 56-36 triumph.
Head Coach Josh Heupel
"Excited about the win. I thought our kids competed for four quarters. It wasn't always perfect, but they competed for four quarters; it's one of those things that's one of our main goals, so really proud of them for that. I thought, defensively, did a great job getting some stops, creating turnovers. That was a big part of the game. Offensively, we took care of the ball, something we didn't do a week ago, and were really efficient on third downs as well."
On QB McKenzie Milton's performance
"Played really well. Smart decisions, was on time with the football as well. Did a great job in the run game, something we didn't use him in the previous game; he handled it well. He missed a third-down throw early in the ballgame, but that's going to happen; you're not going to play perfect. So, I was really proud of the way he played. He played fantastic.
"In the second quarter when we stubbed our toe a couple times, he was just really calm, and I think he brings that to the huddle before we head out for the next series as well, which is really important."
On all three starting linebackers recording interceptions
"Yeah, we need to keep that trend going. All of them got a game ball; you get a turnover, you get a game ball in the locker room. Really proud of the way those guys played. They did a really good job of tackling for most of the night as well. I think that group is continuing to grow."
On tight end Michael Colubiale's performance
"He was big. Everybody around here has been asking if we're ever going to throw to the tight ends. We decided to open it up tonight a little bit for him. He's done a great job since he's come back. He's a natural leader in that (tight ends) room, in part just because of the amount of time that he's played. The only guy in that room that really had played coming into this season. Picked up our offense extremely quickly really well. I think KZ (Milton) has got a lot of trust in him; they're on the same page. He's got a big frame that allows him to be open when he crosses into the middle of the field. He can use his body to shield defenders. He's really smart, and he's a great teammate as well."
On what he said to the team at halftime with only a four-point lead
"Talked to them about being mature competitors. We've talked about that. Handle adversity, understanding that if you hit a rock the first time, it's probably not going to bust open the first time you hit it. ... Every game is going to unfold differently, so just staying the course. We weren't far off on the drives where we ended up punting in the second quarter. ... At the end of the day, we just keep competing, keep playing."
On making Milton more of a runner in this game
"Sometimes, that happens. As a play-caller, I didn't want to put him in a position to take many hits in Week 2. Week 1, we used him; just didn't feel like we wanted to do that in Week 2. ... He's at his best when he has the ability to do that. That's got to be a part of his game."
On FAU RB Devin Singletary
"He is hard to bring down. I thought we did a really good job for most of the night. The defense was put in some tough situations because of our special teams kickoff coverage unit, where they're starting the ball on the 35 and maybe out from there. You give up one first down and all of a sudden, you're in four-down territory. That changes the way you call as a defensive coordinator or the way you play defensively. At the end of the day, I'm really proud of the way those guys played."
On left tackle Wyatt Miller, who was injured in the first half
"Wyatt should be fine for next week. He should be good."
Thanks everybody for reaching out! I’ll be good to go next week! Nothing like the support from knight nation, it’s unmatched. #ChargeOn— Wyatt Miller (@wyatt_miller44) September 22, 2018
On using RB Adrian Killins more as a between-the-tackles runner
"Really close to busting a couple of those wide open. I love AK, love his speed. ... AK has been great. He's physical. He's going to throw his body in there. He's going to finish every run as far as being an inside guy. We're close to finishing those double teams where we're able to come off the second level, and now you've got a big gash and a big play down the middle of the football field."
On the stadium atmosphere during the game
"I thought I knew what this place could be, but the expectations and the capability of what this place can be is greater than what I thought. The passionate fan base, you looked at the packed house, the student body has been absolutely fantastic the first two weeks of this season. You walk into that stadium 60 minutes before kickoff and both sides of the end zone are packed out. People are passionate about it. We've got a great brand with what Danny White is doing with the facilities here. This is a unique opportunity in college football because of what the upward trend is. It's a pretty fantastic place."
Safety Richie Grant
On trying to stop FAU RB Devin Singletary
"That's a good back, man. You miss him, he's going to make you pay. A few times we did miss him, he got plus yards. You've just got to wrap him up, bring him down."
On getting called for targetting (which was overturned on replay)
"I knew it was a clean hit. I wasn't worried at all. I hit him in the chest. When the flag was thrown, it was just a chance for us to get our breath, get some water. ... I had to make that collision for my defense. They were driving the ball, he was wide open, and I knew there was going to be a collision. I just wanted it to be clean."
KZ TDs + clutch INTs = your top plays from the 56-36 W over FAU pic.twitter.com/iEcJdtlhCl— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) September 22, 2018
Linebacker Eric Mitchell
On what it's like to tackle Singletary
"He's a pretty good back. I just feel like tackling is tackling. No matter who he was, you've just got to wrap up and run your feet like [defensive coordinator Randy Shannon] tells us every day in practice."
On playing on Friday night when everyone is watching
"That's a good thing. It just makes you play on top of your level."
Linebacker Pat Jasinski
On his first-quarter interception
"I kind of knew that play was coming. That lollipop pass is pretty popular now in college football. It's all about your eyes. As a Mike backer, if you have your eyes right, it's not that hard of a play to make, and I think the quarterback probably wouldn't have even thrown it if not for the pressure from Titus (Davis), so that was huge. That was one of the plays of the game where really one guy affected another guy and a good play happened."
On what it means that all three starting LBs got an interception
"I thought it was great. Whenever you can make good plays, have turnovers, that's the key to success. Obviously, we have a lot to fix. But in that aspect, getting turnovers is what this defense is all about."
On the challenge of stopping Devin Singletary
"That back was good. He ran hard. He definitely wasn't going down without wrapping and running your feet. We struggled with that. The first couple drives, we were looking solid, and then when they got that momentum and it kind of swung their way, we just weren't really bringing our feet in our tackles. A lot of diving, a lot of reaching. So, I think that was the biggest issue."
On how the defense rebounded from the second quarter
Coach Shannon just really tried to calm us down. I think [FAU] was a little in our heads when they got that tempo going. Some guys were freaking out a little bit and rushing, maybe not just relaxing, seeing what was in front of them, getting the call and doing your job, doing your assignment. I think that was the biggest thing because they really didn't give us that many different looks; they were running what they were running, and sometimes, it would just be one guy either misses a tackle or not in their gap and a big play happened."
Tight End Michael Colubiale
On what it felt like to be so involved in the game plan
"I'll do anything they ask me to do, whether it's blocking or run routes. Today, it happened to be throwing a lot more to the tight ends, so I had to make a play."
Sixth-year senior TE Michael Colubiale had never recorded more than two catches or 42 yards in any game. After an 18-yard catch-and-run on that scoring drive, he now has four catches for 65 yards tonight. He's #UCF leading receiver.— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) September 22, 2018
On having this kind of game as a sixth-year senior
"It's very special. Any time you can have a good team win and the stadium packed like that and a Florida opponent, it's special and it makes you appreciate the little games even more."
On UCF possibly being the best team in Florida
"We can just handle what we can handle. We go out and win every week and prove ourselves. We don't really want to compare ourselves to other teams, but if we just keep winning, I think the argument will be pretty settled."
On seeing a big crowd in the stadium
"I've seen ups and downs with this program, and the student section not filled out some games, some games packed. It's really awesome to us to see the support we have from the student body and our fans every week. The past weeks have been great, and we couldn't ask for anything better."
On McKenzie Milton
"He's lights-out when he gets in a groove. What really helps him most is that he feels comfortable in the pocket with our offensive line protecting him. But when he's in that groove and in that mood, he's lights-out."
Quarterback McKenzie Milton
On his performance following a so-so outing against South Carolina State
"I said earlier in the week the best thing about football is getting to flip the page and play the next game and that's what we did. We took it one play at a time. When things got a little shaky, we didn't flinch. I thought that was a big test of character for our team, and it was a great win. Hats off to FAU; they play very hard, well-coached team. A lot of talent out there on the field tonight, but our team battled and that was a great team win."
On being used more as a runner vs. FAU
"Playing good teams, you're going to have to use the QB-run game when you can, and when the opportunities presented themselves, we did that. Hats off to those wide receivers blocking on the outside; if they don't seal up those DBs, those lanes aren't there for me to try and create. Those guys did awesome tonight."
On his in-game connection with Colubiale
"Thank God for that sixth year, huh? I told him on the sideline he's going to have a chance to play in the NFL next year because he got that year. He's such a big weapon for us in the run game, the pass game. He's a wide receiver that's playing tight end now. He's a stud athlete, he's a great guy to have in the locker room, and I love that guy to death."
On regaining the lead with 31 seconds to go in the first half
"It was big for our momentum because we hadn't scored since the first quarter. It was good to get that going into halftime. In football, the most important possessions, I think, are the last one going into halftime and the first one coming out of halftime, and we got 14 points. That was huge for us."
On having a nearly 6-minute drive to salt the game away
"At first, [we] were trying to push the tempo a little, but I said 'Just slow it down,' because I felt like our O-line was taking over the game. And our running backs kept hitting for 5, 6, 7, 10 yards. We had some big third-down conversions there, and Taj ended up scoring. I told the guys when we got to the sideline that was my favorite drive of the game, just us being able to impose our will and finish that game."
On how the offensive line played following Wyatt Miller's exit
"Like I said on the field, Trevor Elbert stepped up big. I told him when he went in, 'This is why you came to UCF, for moments like this.' And he stepped up big and he held it down on the left side."
On people calling UCF the best team in Florida
"I think it's cool, but I think it's very early in the season, too. We can't really focus on that right now. It's a great title to have because Florida football, in my opinion, is the best in the country. So, it's big to have that title, but at the same time, we can't get too focused on that because we're only in our third game of the year. ... Hopefully, we'll have that title at the end of the season."
On how important it was to win this in-state matchup
"Any time you get those in-state games -- FAU, USF -- it's big just because a lot of these guys played high school ball against each other and they're close friends. Like I said, there was a lot of talent on that football field tonight, a lot of guys that have the chance to play at the next level. Singletary is unbelievable. Their middle linebacker, No. 2 (Azeez Al-Shaair) is one of the best players I've played against. They're a very well-coached group, but we were the better group tonight. Hats off to them. All it is is we're 1-0 and we'll get ready for Pitt next week."