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Remembering Dillon Gabriel's Time at UCF

A look back at what Dillon Gabriel did while playing for UCF.

Coming off a close victory against the USF Bulls on Black Friday, Knight fans had to have been pretty excited about the future of UCF’s football program and their athletic department. In addition to that, the Knights also rebranded its logo to "pump some life and attitude into the Knighthead logo by modernizing the already existing look," Jimmy Skiles, Associate Athletics Director for Brand Advancement said.

However, the day after the Knights’ victory over the Bulls, junior quarterback Dillon Gabriel announced that he will be entering the transfer portal and thanked his coaches, teammates, and staff for his experience at UCF.

During his time with the Knights, Gabriel threw for 8,037 yards, 70 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions, with an average rating of 156.9. Over the years, Gabriel improved as a passer and as a runner. His completion percentage increased from 59.3% in his freshman season to 68.6% prior to his injury. In his first year at UCF, he averaged nearly 1.1 yards per rush, and before his shoulder injury earlier this season, he was rushing for 5.2 yards per rush.

Coming into the 2019 season, Gabriel was a true freshman and was the backup quarterback to UCF transfer and former Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush

During the Knights home opener against FAMU, Wimbush may have thrown for more passing yards, but Gabriel maximized his opportunity and finished the game nine for 13, with 127 yards and three touchdowns, which led the Knights to roll past the Rattlers by a score of 62-0. From there, the team announced that Gabriel would be the team’s starter going forward.

During his freshman season, Gabriel helped lead the Knights to a key win over the Stanford Cardinals where he threw for over his season-high 338 yards on two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Knights would win some key matchups against AAC opponents including Houston, Tulane, and USF but they also lost to the Desmond Ridder-led Cincinnati Bearcats by a score of 27-24. In that game against the Bearcats, Gabriel completed 25 of 46 passes, for 297 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

One of those interceptions was a 16-yard pick-six from current junior cornerback ​​Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. The Knights closed out their season with a 48-25 win against Marshall in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. During that game, Gabriel was 14 of 24, for 260 yards, and two touchdowns, which included a screen pass to Marlon Williams that went for 75 yards. 

Gabriel finished his freshman season by throwing for 3,393 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. It was hard to believe that Gabriel was a true freshman having the success that he did but he earned the UCF starting quarterback job and the support from the UCF community.

During the 2020 season, Gabriel led the Knights to a 6-4 record which included wins against USF, Houston, and Tulane but perhaps his most impressive performance with the Knights came in a 50-49 loss in Memphis. Gabriel completed 35 of 49 passes and threw for an astounding 601 yards (his career high), five touchdowns, and zero interceptions. 

About one month later, was UCF’s biggest game of the season against the No. 7 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats. Gabriel was intercepted once as he threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns. This performance by Gabriel was not enough as the Knights would lose this matchup 36-33. To close the 2020 season, the Knights traveled to Boca Raton Bowl to play in the Roofclaim.com Boca Raton Bowl against Brigham Young University who was led by current New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.

Appearing in only three games his third season, Gabriel and the Knights got the season started by helping the Knights complete a 21 point comeback victory over the Boise State Broncos by a score of 36-31. He finished the game by completing 25 of 37 passes, throwing for 318 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.

In the Knights' third game of the season, they traveled to Louisville to play the Malik Cunningham-led Louisville Cardinals. Against the Cardinals, Gabriel would complete 22 of 29 passes, throw for 184 yards, three touchdowns, and one pick-six courtesy of freshman linebacker Jaylin Alderman which sealed the win for the Cardinals. On the next drive, Gabriel broke his left clavicle and he has not suited up for the Knights since.

In looking back at Gabriel’s time at UCF, he has gotten better each season to be successful in both former UCF Head Coach Josh Heupel and current UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s offensive schemes. There will be no shortage of football programs looking to add Gabriel to help their teams for next season.

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