Butch Davis returned to the sidelines on Thursday night.
It wasn’t much of a night to remember.
The host UCF Knights didn’t give Davis a grand welcome to the old college game as they rolled to a 30-point halftime lead and beat FIU 61-17 in the season opener for both teams.
The Knights, who went 6-7 last season, put up 447 yards of offense — in just the first half.
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FIU, which went 4-8 in 2016 and lost to the Knights by 39 last year, kept things close for a bit on Thursday.
“Obviously this was not the outcome we would have liked to had,” Davis said from a makeshift visiting team media room jammed into a storage closet next to the locker room. “A lot of the things we talked about over the past six or seven months was how you build a football team. We did not accomplish those things.”
After UCF scored on its opening possession, the Panthers came back and made it an 8-7 game on a 75-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Alex McGough to senior Thomas Owens with 9:30 left in the first.
The Knights answered, but a 39-yard field goal from Jose Borregales made it 14-10 early in the second.
Then the Knights began to blow things wide open.
Central Florida scored 26 points in the final 11:44 of of the first half — with five plays for at least 15 yards and two going for over 60 — to take a 40-10 lead at the break.
Things didn’t go much better for the Panthers in the second half, either.
After a turnover on FIU’s first possession, UCF marched right down the field and scored again.
The Knights scored twice in the third quarter to make it 54-10 before FIU junior Napoleon Maxwell burst out on a 51-yard run for his first score since the 2014 season.
Maxwell has missed the past two seasons because of knee injuries.
UCF continued the scoring in the fourth.
Davis, 65, was hired by FIU in November after the Panthers fired Ron Turner following an 0-4 start (Turner’s final game was the 53-14 loss to UCF) and replaced him with interim coach Ron Cooper.
The former University of Miami coach (1995-2000) had not coached since the 2010 Music City Bowl. North Carolina fired him before the 2011 season, and he has spent the past few years working as a college football television analyst.
McGough, FIU’s senior quarterback, looked OK when he had the chance.
In the opening half, he completed 9 of 17 for 125 yards and the touchdown to Owens. He opened the second half with a fourth-down completion before FIU turned it over on the next play.
▪ FIU’s special teams had some good moments, stuffing UCF returner Anthony Roberson at the 13 when he brought a kickoff out of the end zone.
Borregales, a second-year freshman from Booker T. Washington, hit a long field goal in the first.
The Panthers lost a pair of seniors to ejection for targeting.
Cornerback Niko Gonzalez was tossed in the first quarter, so he should be able to play next week against Alcorn State. Linebacker Anthony Wint went in the third quarter, so he’ll be ineligible for the opening half of next week’s game.
▪ FIU went into the fourth quarter with 11 penalties for 137 yards.
FIU’s secondary was burned time after time by sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton — with big plays on third down being especially harmful to the Panthers.
On UCF’s first drive of the season, Milton completed a 19-yard pass to a wide-open Tre-Quan Smith on 3rd and 9; Milton then completed a 26-yard pass on the ensuing play, leading to UCF’s first score.
Later in the first, Milton tossed a 25-yard pass on third down before hooking up with Smith for a 50-yard touchdown.
Milton passed for 357 yards in the first half and was replaced by Noah Vedral after throwing his fourth touchdown of the night (to Smith from the 3).
Vedral went 6-of-8 for 66 yards in the third.
▪ UCF had not scored 60 points since beating UConn in 2013.
▪ Sept 9: Alcorn State at FIU, 7:30 p.m. (BeIN Sports); Memphis at UCF, 8 (ESPNews).