Can a 38-0 victory ever feel disappointing? Can 566 yards of offense ever feel underwhelming?
UCF's offense -- quarterback McKenzie Milton, in particular -- came out discombobulated versus South Carolina State. Milton threw three interceptions in the first half, making poor decisions and having some communication breakdowns with his wide receivers. However, the Knights' defense created three turnovers of its own and posted a third consecutive shutout of the Bulldogs, who have never scored in their matchups with UCF.
And, ultimately, a win is a win.
"You should take everyone you should get," head coach Josh Heupel said after Saturday's game. Here are the highlights of what else he and his players told the media.
Head Coach Josh Heupel
"I loved the way we played defensively, special teams. Thought we lived in the backfield all night long. Obviously, the turnovers were huge, especially early in the football game. Offensively, I like a lot of the things that we did; we just stubbed our toe a bunch. Obviously, we can't have the turnovers. Got to find a way to get McKenzie in a little better rhythm early, but at the end at the day, it's a dub and we'll take it."
Did you think the tackling improved on defense this week?
"I absolutely did. I felt like we did a good job in space. The [first-string] unit really, really played well. I thought, again, we created penetration much like we did last week, but when the quarterback was in space, we did a better job on him."
What did you see from Milton out there?
Really, some of our rhythm was just a little bit off. We got the false start, got in some negative situations, things that we didn't do in Week 1 that we certainly did. Our penalties, we had way too many of them (11 for 101 yards). ... And just the turnovers, just some decision-making and us being on the same page. A bunch of things that we can correct. The good news is we'll get a chance to go back to work."
Is it encouraging to rack up more than 550 yards with the game that McKenzie had?
Yes and no. At the end of the day, it isn't about yards; it's about wins. We certainly can play better, absolutely. There were times where we were really efficient and got things going; we just didn't do it enough consistently all night long. At the same time, give [South Carolina State] credit. Defensively, they're a good football team."
What did you say to McKenzie during that first half when he was throwing those interceptions?
"Just settle down, relax and do the everyday normal things at a high level. Don't feel like you have to be perfect, don't press. He maybe did that a little bit at the end of the first quarter. At the same time, there's going to be nights where you're just a little bit out of rhythm. ... It's good to come away on a night like that with a win. It's good on a night like that to still move the football."
Do you have any reason to be concerned about Milton going forward?
"No, absolutely not. Guys, he's a really good player. He missed a couple throws, made some really good plays tonight, too. He'll come back and he'll be ready to go."
Darriel Mack is in: Milton's day is done. 21-for-43. 239 yards, one TD and three INTs. Milton ran just three times for 16 yards. He was not sacked. Not what I think anyone expected from him today. #UCF— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) September 9, 2018
Talk about the crowd tonight
Game ball to the student section. That's absolutely fantastic. Walking out to that, first home game, that's the best student-body section that I've seen anywhere I've been for an opener like that. Appreciate the energy and atmosphere they created inside of that place. Going to need that from them as we continue to go down the rest of the schedule."
Talk about Gabe Davis' 100-yard receiving game
"Yeah, he did a really good job. He's been really consistent in his work habits since the day I've gotten here. He handles himself like a pro. I think McKenzie's got a lot of trust in him, and he's highly competitive to the catch."
Wide Receiver Gabe Davis
Any thoughts on your first 100-yard game at UCF?
"Just happy I had a good game. I thought we could have done some better things on offense though; we started off real slow. A 100-yard game is nice, but I'd like to see us do better on offense as a whole."
What do you attribute to that slow start?
"I don't know. Just not running the right reads, I know, on my part. I know there were some balls I should have had in my hands and I know also there were some routes I should have came down on instead of keep going deep. Just little things like that we should have done better."
How did you like watching the success of the running game today?
"I love watching our running backs squirt through the hole and make a deep run. It's always fun to watch them. I mean, you never know when you have to run downfield and block for them, but sometimes, you have AK [Adrian Killins} running down the field, it's like you can't even catch up to block for him. It's just great to be on a team like this, especially with as many weapons as we do have in the backfield."
When Milton is struggling, do you say anything to him?
"That's just football; you're not going to play your best game every game. ... On McKenzie's part, there were some balls that he put in some pretty good spots that the receivers just didn't make a great play on. So, it's not all on him. There were some routes that we could have run better as well to open up the window and also go where the ball was supposed to actually be."
Wideouts got a message for you, Knight Nation! pic.twitter.com/tM70eIJGmK— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) September 9, 2018
Running Back Adrian Killins
How do you think the running game produced this evening?
"The running game, it showed up evident that we have a lot of playmakers in the backfield, running backs that can do a lot in this offense. It all starts up front with the O-line. The O-line played another phenomenal game today on the run game. Every time we go out on a series, the O-line, they like to get one-and-out drives so we can just get in and get out. The big boys need their rest. Our O-line is coming together well."
What is the vibe after the game?
"We won, so everyone is happy, everyone is celebrating. On to the next opponent now."
Does it blow your mind sometimes how fast this offense operates? (UCF had four touchdown drives that took less than 45 seconds)
"It does blow my mind sometimes. ... I celebrate after a run of mine and I forget that we've got to go tempo. So sometimes, I forget that we go so fast that I've got to get back on the line. We go fast in practice, but in the games, it seems like we go even faster."
Talk about the diversity of the running back corps
"Everyone brings their own juice to the table. Taj (McGowan) is a ground-and-pound. He can make you miss, but he'll for sure run you over. Otis (Anderson), he can catch out of the backfield and he can get out in space and make a guy miss and take it for 80. Greg McCrae, he can do the same thing: catch it out of the backfield, take it for 80, make you miss and sometimes, he'll run you over as well.
"I've never been part of a running back corps like I am now. I believe we are the closest position on the team. We've been on this long road and this long journey for a long time, and I think the RBs, we're a special group. ... There's just a lot of joy in that running back room because everyone got each other's back and we know at the end of the day that if we get that one crease, we're going to take it the distance."
A little ...a little— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) September 9, 2018
AK went to work ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/pUZeYmDrCm
Safety Kyle Gibson
How do you feel the defense improved with its tackling?
"I think we did much better. We still missed a couple tackles here and there, but that's just football. I think we did a tremendous job compared to last weekend. That was just the focal point in practice, just what everyone was pushing for. Not making the big hit, just making a tackle and getting them down."
How did you like the crowd atmosphere out there tonight?
"That was wonderful. My fifth year being here, that's the most I've seen people come out to the first game. It just makes me more excited for the rest of the season."
Are you looking forward to perhaps watching the Seattle Seahawks tomorrow?
"Yeah, I'll definitely be watching Shaquem and Shaquill go at it. I'm definitely excited."
How happy are you for Shaquem Griffin getting to start in his first NFL game?
"Words can't even speak. Just us knowing him personally, that example he sets for the world. And even for the people that know him personally, just seeing him doing that, being able to say, 'I know this guy,' and just how humble he and his brother are, the whole family, I can't even compare to it."
Defensive Lineman Titus Davis
Was it important to maintain the shutout?
"It was definitely important to me. Toward the end of the game, [South Carolina State] started driving the ball and stuff like that. I went to my coach on the sideline and I was like, 'Coach, whatever we gotta do, let's keep this shutout." We ended up shutting them out, so that was a great thing."
Do you ever tell Milton and the offense to slow down a little so that the defense can get a little longer rest?
(Laughs) "Nah, but sometimes, I ain't going to lie: I do get to the sidelines, I hear a couple of words from my coach and then I'm back on the field. We do get winded, but at the same time, we practice for it. We practice against these guys all year, so we've prepared a lot for it. It gets easy."
What do you think when the fans start chanting: "We want Bama!"
"You know how that goes. If they're put on our schedule, we're going to handle it accordingly. At the same time, we've got to worry about the next game."
Are you watching the Seahawks game tomorrow?
"Oh, definitely. I gotta watch my boy (Shaquem). I talked to him the other day; he's just excited. He's ready to go out there and ball out. I'm ready to go watch Shaquem and Shaquill. They're awesome players."
⚔️Blocks— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) September 9, 2018
Your Plays of the game from our 38-0 shutout of SC State pic.twitter.com/00AETNisXa
Quarterback McKenzie Milton
How would you assess your overall performance?
"Definitely a sub-par performance today by myself and I would say the offense as well. You can't turn over the ball in football games, but give a lot of credit to S.C. State. They're D-1 players; they get scholarships as well. They made some plays. But we'll go look over the film tomorrow, see what we did wrong and just get ready for North Carolina next week."
To what do you attribute the miscommunication with your receivers?
"It's still early in the year. It's better that kind of stuff happens now than later in the year, I'd say. But we've just got to work. We've just got to practice harder, practice better and it'll come to fruition (at) game time.
Can you put your finger on what was wrong with you tonight?
"Just didn't get into a great rhythm, missed some easy throws and S.C. State made some good plays, too. Like I said, watch the film tomorrow and hopefully bounce back next week.
Did you feel like you were pressing with the home opener?
"Nah, I don't think so. I give a lot of credit to Knight Nation. They came out. That's the most packed I've seen a home opener since I've been here, so I'm very grateful for Knight Nation and the way they showed out. But I don't think there was any pressing. It's football. Hopefully, you don't have bad games; you might have bad quarters or a bad half, but you've just got to play the next play. That's the way it is, especially at quarterback."
What does it say about the program that this team can win 38-0 and not be exactly thrilled with the result?
"It doesn't matter who we're playing, we've got to play up to the ability that we can play. Win or loss, you've just got to look at the film and move on. We preach going 1-0 every week and we did that this week."
Are you excited to see some of your friends play in the NFL tomorrow?
Yeah, no question. I've got my fantasy team, so it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm excited to see Shaquem, Tre'Quan, Mike, Shaquill, all those guys, Jordan Akins. It's fun seeing those guys being in our shoes and where they're at now."