LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Dillon Gabriel exited the visiting locker room at Cardinal Stadium Friday night with his left arm in a sling, ice on his shoulder and tears in his eyes. The Central Florida quarterback who led the nation in passing yards per game in 2020 may have seen his season—and ultimately his college career—come to a jarring end in a stunning loss to Louisville.
“We’ll know more when we get home,” said UCF coach Gus Malzahn before boarding the team bus, but every postgame indication is that Gabriel’s injury to his throwing shoulder is major. His parents, Dori and Gabriel, consulted with team medical personnel outside the locker room. The Gabriels then consoled Dillon as he emerged from the locker room.
Gabriel had been carted off the field and X-rays had been taken of Gabriel’s left shoulder immediately after Louisville’s 42–35 upset victory. He was injured on the final play of the game, a multi-lateral attempt at a miracle touchdown by the Knights. That was the final gut punch for UCF on a night of multiple injuries and stunning changes of fortune.
The game swung unexpectedly in the Cardinals’ favor near the very end, when a Gabriel pass deflected off his receiver’s hands and was caught by Louisville linebacker Jaylin Alderman, who returned it for the winning touchdown with just 13 seconds left. That put the Knights in position to try the desperation final play on which the three-year starter from Hawaii was hurt.
Gabriel threw for just 188 yards Friday, his lowest single-game output since his first game at UCF, when he passed for 127 yards against Florida A&M in the 2019 season opener. But he did pass for three touchdowns and caught a pass for a fourth on a trick play. For the season he’s thrown for 818 yards and nine TDs.
Next man up for UCF at quarterback appears to be freshman Mikey Keene, who completed four of seven passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in his college debut last week against Bethune-Cookman. After an open date next weekend, the Knights head into American Athletic Conference play against Navy Oct. 2.
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