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Dillon Gabriel, UCF Snap Marshall's Bowl Winning Streak to Win Gasparilla Bowl

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2019

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 23: Greg McCrae #30 of the UCF Knights scores during the first quarter against the Marshall Thundering Herd at the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on December 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

UCF finished its season in style with a 48-25 win over Marshall in the 2019 Gasparilla Bowl.

Two defensive touchdowns gave the Knights as 21-0 lead and Dillon Gabriel did the rest with three total touchdowns to hold on in an impressive performance at Raymond James Stadium Monday. Five different players also finished with at least 40 rushing yards.

UCF (10-3) entered as one of the biggest betting favorites of the bowl season, via Caesars, and the team came through on a rainy day in Tampa to earn its third straight 10-win season.

Marshall (8-5) had been one of the country's best bowl teams with seven straight wins, going 6-0 under head coach Doc Holliday, but five turnovers against a tough opponent caused this streak to come to an end.

         

Notable Stats

  • Dillon Gabriel, QB, UCF: 14-of-24, 260 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD
  • Greg McCrae, RB, UCF: 14 carries, 80 rushing yards, 1 TD
  • Marlon Williams, WR, UCF: 7 catches, 132 receiving yards, 1 TD
  • Isaiah Green, QB, Marshall: 9-of-23, 173 passing yards, 1 passing TD, 2 INT, 1 rushing TD
  • Brenden Knox, RB, Marshall: 26 carries, 103 rushing yards
  • Willie Johnson WR, Marshall: 1 catch, 70 receiving yards, 1 TD

        

Second-Half Explosion Helps UCF Pull Away

The rainy weather created a sloppy game in the early going, with five combined turnovers leading to three defensive touchdowns in the first half.

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

UCF's defense plays lights out! Pick-six less than one minute into the game 💨 https://t.co/1XK2fvrjcX

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

UCF'S DEFENSE WITH ITS SECOND TD IN 8 MINUTES 😳 https://t.co/w5lWbxqKhx

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

Marshall isn't going away! 75-yard pick-six 🔥 https://t.co/aslT1C7VNz

There was only one offensive touchdown for either team in the first half, a major change for a UCF team that had little trouble scoring all year.

UCF was certainly shorthanded offensively in this one with leading receiver Gabriel Davis and No. 2 runner Adrian Killins both out while preparing for the NFL draft. 

However, the team finally found its rhythm in the second half. 

A screen pass to Otis Anderson turned a 4th-and-7 into a 35-yard touchdown. On the next offensive possession, Gabriel called his own number for a three-yard touchdown run.

UCF went with a quick-strike approach on the next opportunity with a 75-yard touchdown to Marlon Williams on a receiver screen.

The Action Network @ActionNetworkHQ

About sums up 45 UCF points in 2.5 quarters... https://t.co/iFdKbMA569

UCF Football @UCF_Football

WE ARE OFF THE RAILS HERE IN TAMPA 😂

The Knights traveled 75 yards on four straight scoring drives to maintain their lead.

Even without some key players in the lineup, a balanced attack helped the squad total 277 passing yards and 310 rushing yards in a dominant showing Monday. 

      

Inconsistent Offense Not Enough For Marshall

The offensive game plan didn't seem to work for Marshall against the Knights.

The Thundering Herd turned it over on each of the first four possessions, leading to a 21-point hole just eight minutes into the game.

Ryan Mouton @RMout29

It’s not looking good for Marshall early, UCF defense is swarming

The turnovers created a deficit that was simply too much to overcome.

There was finally some movement in the second half, getting the first offensive touchdown in the third quarter.  

Brenden Knox began picking up tough yards on the ground, which opened up the rest of the field for read-options and deep passes.

Marshall Football @HerdFB

Another look at the Isaiah Green touchdown! #HerdFamily #RiseAsOne https://t.co/v7R9f6xbcZ

Willie Johnson also turned heads with a 70-yard touchdown run.

However, it wasn't enough to keep up with UCF on the scoreboard.

Knox did his job on the ground, but Isaiah Green couldn't pick up the slack while completing just 39.1 percent of his passes. 

The good news is the Herd should return most of their offense while creating what should be a dangerous team in 2020.