ATLANTA — Dillon Gabriel threw for a career-best 417 yards and four touchdowns to lead No. 14 Central Florida to a 49-21 victory over Georgia Tech in the Knights' season opener Saturday.
After giving up a long return on the opening kickoff, UCF rebounded behind its left-handed sophomore to beat a Georgia Tech team that was looking to build on a big road win in its first game.
Tre Nixon and Marlon Williams each hauled in a pair of TD passes as Gabriel eclipsed his previous career high of 365 yards in a game last season at East Carolina. He finished 27 of 41, also eclipsing his career high for completions and matching his mark for most scoring passes in a game.
After falling behind 28-7, Georgia Tech (1-1) climbed within a touchdown on a pair of scores by freshman Jahmyr Gibbs, who also had a long kickoff return to set up the Yellow Jackets' first TD.
But Gabriel and the Knights pulled away in the fourth quarter before a socially distanced crowd of about 11,000 at 55,000-seat Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Showing off its running back depth, UCF got a rushing TD from Greg McCrae, Otis Anderson and Bentavious Thompson.
Coming off a 3-9 season in Geoff Collins coaching debut, Georgia Tech opened 2020 by rallying for a 16-13 win at Florida State.
The Yellow Jackets got off to a brilliant start against UCF. Gibbs returned the opening kickoff 75 yards, setting up freshman quarterback Jeff Sims' 1-yard touchdown run just 55 seconds into the game.
UCF bounced right back, driving 75 yards in eight plays capped by Gabriel's 6-yard touchdown pass to Nixon.
Georgia Tech squandered a couple of chances to reclaim control of the game, coming up with no points on two drives deep into UCF territory.
Sims fumbled the ball away at the Knights 8 and freshman Jude Kelley's 27-yard field goal was blocked.
It was the fourth blocked kick in two games for Kelley, who had two field goals and an extra point swatted away in the victory at Florida State.
Kelley's woes prompted the Yellow Jackets to make a change during the game. Another freshman, Gavin Stewart, came on to handle the extra points on Georgia Tech's last two TDs.
UCF: The Knights showed they are again in the mix to be the top team from the Group of Five. Dillon is a dynamic quarterback who fits perfectly in the up-tempo offense, and he's got plenty of weapons at his disposal. Williams had 10 catches for 154 yards, and Jaylon Robinson added six catches for 105 yards.
Georgia Tech: Sims again showed flashes of promise in his second college game, but he simply made too many mistakes to beat a team of UCF's caliber. He was 18 of 36 for 244 yards with a pair of interceptions. The Yellow Jackets also lost three fumbles.
UCF: Plays its second straight road game to begin the season, facing East Carolina next Saturday in its American Athletic Conference opener.
Georgia Tech: Returns to Atlantic Coast Conference play with a trip to Syracuse next Saturday.