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Potent Quotables: What the Knights Said Following Their 37-10 Victory at ECU

QB Darriel Mack fills in nicely for McKenzie Milton as UCF runs its winning streak to 20.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at East Carolina
UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. runs for a 7-yard score versus the East Carolina Pirates.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s game versus East Carolina ended up being the blowout that was forecast. But the route we all took to get to the rout was certainly a dramatic one.

There had been rumors during the week that quarterback McKenzie Milton wouldn’t play in this game as he was nursing multiple injuries — but there was nothing concrete.

Then, when he was seen warming up like usual and trying to do his best Odell Beckham Jr. impression before the game — again, like usual — it looked like it was all a ruse. Milton even came out in full pads and his helmet and started throwing again before kickoff.

And that’s the last we saw of him, at least on the playing field. Darriel Mack Jr. stepped in and, after some early struggles, guided the Knights to a relatively easy 37-10 win. Here are the highlights of what Mack, linebacker Nate Evans, running back Greg McCrae, defensive end Titus Davis and head coach Josh Heupel had to say after the game.

Head Coach Josh Heupel

On UCF’s defense forcing five turnovers

“Turnovers typically are going to be one of the things that drive the football game. Our defense did a great job tonight being extremely physical. Even when [East Carolina] moved the football, we continued to tag and hit the quarterback. Then the play where Nate picks it up and goes the distance is one that opens it wide opens. Just really proud of the way those guys competed all night long.”

On what he said to Mack following a slow start

“To be honest, his decision-making was perfect early in the night. We had some guys around him that busted some things, that didn’t see the signal, weren’t aligned correctly. Darriel, from the get-go, was really in tuned with what was going on.”

On Nate Evans’ performance

“Great story, right? Nate wasn’t a starter early in the year. Continued to work, continued to push, gets his opportunity, takes advantage of it because of the way he’s prepared. He’s playing his butt off and playing a lot of football for us.”

On the defense’s overall showing

“We handled the quarterback-run game. We hit [ECU QB Holton Ahlers] extremely hard and put them in long-yardage situations. Gave up a couple plays, but really for the most part, we squashed it from the second quarter on.”

On UCF’s running attack

“We were really efficient at times. There were a couple of things that were close that we can clean up. There’s some things that we can still be better at; that’s a coach after a football game. But we need a couple days off. We need to get healed up and find a way to go 1-0 the following week.”

On whether he is looking forward to UCF’s upcoming bye

“I’m looking forward to it for our football team. I think it comes at a good time. We’ve got a chance to get a little bit of rest, get some work, clean some things up in all three phases and then push forward for a stretch run.”

Quarterback Darriel Mack Jr.

On how UCF finished the game emphatically

“For one, it just says all we need is one play. Two, our defense is going to hold us down no matter what happens. Somebody just getting thrown in the fire like that in a first game starting, and our defense is playing lights-out the whole game. I can’t thank those guys enough.”

On if getting this start makes him more confident

“It does a lot for my confidence, but I’m still always trying to stay ready like I’m going to be the starter every week, going into practice and preparing like that.”

On how his supporters in the crowd were surprised to see him start (Mack said even his parents, who were in attendance, didn’t know that he would be starting)

“My high school coaches were here — my head coach and my offensive coordinator were here, so it was big playing in front of them”

On the double-pass touchdown with backup QB Quadry Jones

“I knew it was going to be big, but I was just happy for Quadry to get his first one in like that. It was special for him, and I was happy for him.”

On whether he felt butterflies as he took the field

“Nah, no butterflies. I was just ready to make the plays when the plays needed to be made.”

Linebacker Nate Evans

On what challenges ECU QB Holton Ahlers posed for the defense

“Their quarterback on film, he’s a good runner. About 6-2, 230-ish, so he’s kind of like a big running back. The game plan with him, we knew he was going to do a lot of quarterback running. We tried to get that eliminated and out of the game early and make them use other weapons that they have.”

On what the defense felt when they saw that Mack was starting

“No pressure at all. We know D-Mack, we know McKenzie; both good quarterbacks. Quadry, all of them good quarterbacks. So, whoever goes out on the field, we know that they are going to play. It really doesn’t matter; we all just came out and played, executed.”

On what it means that UCF can win by four scores with its backup QB

“It’s a good, positive thing. Like I said, all of our quarterbacks are competitive. They compete in practice every day, and we get to go against all three of them, Quadry, D-Mack and McKenzie. There was no pressure. Just came out, executed and got this win. Feels good.”

On how he evaluates this 7-0 team

“We just go 1-0 every day. Sunday, 1-0. Monday, 1-0. Tuesday, 1-0.”

Running Back Greg McCrae

On what he saw on his 74-yard TD run

“Just a whole bunch of green grass. The O-line blocked, and the hole was big. It was very big, so all I had to do was run straight through it and just not get caught.”

On what he felt when he found out that Milton wasn’t starting

“This whole team has total trust in DJ Mack, so there was no setback. We all trusted him. We know his abilities. He’s a great player and he stepped in and did a great job.”

On if he’s looking forward to the bye week

“Yeah, I am. It’s been a lot of fun so far, but the team needs their rest. So, we get this week off and come back. Our season is going fast.”

Defensive End Titus Davis

On Nate Evans’ long scoop-and-score touchdown

“It was just awesome second effort by Kyle Gibson. He came through, got his hand up and got a strip. Nate Evans was there also — good effort to pick the ball up. After he picked the ball up, he took off and that was the end of it.”

On when he knew Mack would be UCF’s starting quarterback

“Just like everybody else, I found out as soon as the ball was snapped in the first quarter. I didn’t really know much about it until the first quarter.”

On if Milton’s absence changed the defense’s approach to the game at all

“One thing about it (is) we believe in everybody that we have on our team. DJ Mack, he shows a lot of great effort. He shows a lot of great effort in the film room and everything. Just knowing that we believe in each other, we believe in him, it’s ‘next man up.’ One man is down, next man up. We had no flaws.”

On creating five turnovers

“... That’s one of the big things that we always focus on during the week: Getting the ball out, strips, anything we can do to get turnovers, and five turnovers is great. Look forward to doing it again.”

On how much the team needs its upcoming bye week

“It’s a long season, so of course, like everybody — since I’ve been in college I haven’t had a bye week. Getting this bye week, it’s great, it’s awesome. It’s great for us to recover.”

On Nate Evans

“This season, Nate has really stepped up. ... He’s incredible. He was thrown in the fire a few games ago when [LB Eric Mitchell] went down, but at the same time, he’s just an incredible guy. Last week, I saw him in the film room the whole week, just watching, looking for keys to pick up on. Just having him do that, it helped me to have a little more confidence in him.”