Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel acknowledges it’ll be unusual going against UCF on Saturday when his No. 6 Sooners host the Knights in Big 12 Conference play in Norman, Okla.
“I think now I’m just kind of settling into (the fact) college football is what it is,” said Gabriel, who played his first three seasons for UCF from 2019-21. “Once you think one thing, it’ll turn into a whole ‘nother.”
Gabriel is one of the biggest reasons why the Sooners (6-0, 3-0) are in the position they’re in. He has completed 72.3 percent of his throws with 16 touchdown passes and just two interceptions this season.
“When we had him, every day in practice, he would make a throw that you’d go, ‘Wow,'” Knights coach Gus Malzahn said. “His accuracy. He’s a veteran guy now, too. Think about all the snaps he’s played. You can see when you watch him on film. He’s got really good command. He knows when to throw the ball away. He’s got great courage. He’ll wait until the last second, get the ball out.”
Gabriel was hours away from transferring to UCLA from UCF two years ago before flipping to Oklahoma, where he’s reunited with Jeff Lebby, his offensive coordinator with the Knights in his freshman season of 2019.
But while Gabriel knew Lebby was going to be calling the plays, the rest of the roster was less certain.
“I told him I couldn’t make any promises about who was going to be here or who wasn’t,” Sooners coach Brent Venables said. “I was going to try to keep the roster as-is, so he’d have to come knowing that. I wasn’t going to be misleading or things of that nature. I wanted him to come here and feel good about his opportunity. He bet on himself, when it was all said and done … and it worked out really well for all of us.”
While Gabriel has fueled the Sooners’ hot start, quarterback play also has been a deciding factor for the Knights (3-3, 0-3).
John Rhys Plumlee has missed most of the last four games with a leg injury, contributing to UCF’s rough initiation to Big 12 play.
Plumlee played briefly at Kansas on Oct. 7 before leaving the game having thrown just seven passes.
Malzahn said Plumlee would start against the Sooners after he made significant progress during the Knights’ bye week.
“I’d say he’s close to 100 percent, so don’t expect any issues moving forward,” Malzahn said.
Saturday’s matchup will feature the top two offenses in the Big 12, with UCF averaging 516.7 yards per game and the Sooners 506.
The two teams have done it in a much different way, though, with the Knights’ biggest strength being their ground game — averaging 246.3 rushing yards — and the Sooners’ being their passing attack, which has averaged 341.2 yards per game.
The meeting will be the first between the programs and their only meeting in the Big 12 before the Sooners make the leap to the SEC next season.