Pete DiNovo

UCF will go with Holman as starting QB next week at Missouri

2 Comments

After sparking the UCF Knights across the Atlantic Ocean last week in a near rally against Penn State, Justin Holman will be given the starting duties under center in game two. UCF is off this week but visits Missouri next weekend.

UCF head coach George O’Leary named Pete DiNovo the starting quarterback for the season opener against Penn State last week in Ireland, but inconsistent play on offense led O’Leary to make a quarterback change midway through the game. Holman entered the game and gave UCF a spark on offense. UCF was led to a late go-ahead touchdown on the strength of Holman’s play, but Penn State clipped UCF with a last-second field goal for the win. This week, O’Leary is hoping Holmna’s play gives UCF a boost early on.

“I think game time lights go on and everybody reacts different. But Holman will get the nod,” O’Leary said in a story by the Associated Press. “We’ll see if he can continue doing what he did.”

Holman threw three touchdowns in the second half of last weekend’s game.

Penn State QB makes history in Croke Park Classic

16 Comments

Not even Kerry Collins, Todd Blackledge or Michael Robinson did what Penn State’s sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg accomplished Saturday in the Croke Park Classic against the UCF Knights.

Hackenberg is the first quarterback in Penn State history to throw for 400 yards or more in a single game as he lead the Nittany Lions to a thrilling 26-24 victory over the Knights in Dublin, Ireland.

The sophomore finished 32-of-47 passing for 454 yards. The performance was highlighted by a game-winning drive. Hackenberg was 4-of-6 passing for 47 yards during the final 1:13 of the contest to set up the winning field goal by senior kicker Sam Ficken.

During the performance, pundits were drooling over the potential which Hackenberg represents. Hackenberg forced a couple of throws which resulted in interceptions, but those poor throws didn’t take away from the fact he was the best player on the field. This was simply a great performance to build upon a resume that may result in Hackenberg becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 or 2017 NFL draft.

And Penn State capitalized on the talent it has behind center.

Once the team couldn’t establish the run early in the game, the onus fell on Hackenberg to carry the team. He was clearly able to do so. The young signal caller was able to evade pressure in the pocket, make throws on the move and manipulate UCF’s secondary to complete a beautiful 79-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Geno Lewis to give the Nittany Lions a 20-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Lewis finished with 173 receiving yards. Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton was nearly as good with 11 receptions for 165 yards.

For UCF, head coach George O’Leary waited far too long to make a crucial change at quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo started the game and struggled mightly. DiNovo was a paltry 3-of-8 passing for 18 yards in the first half. O’Leary then inserted Justin Holman into the lineup during the third quarter, and the sophomore brought instant energy to the lineup. Holman led the Knights to 21 points in the second half with 204 passing yards. He added a pair of touchdowns, one passing and one running. Holman had his team in a position to win with 1:13 remaining, but the Knights’ defense simply couldn’t hold.

Despite the outcome, the two teams learned something equally important about their quarterbacks.

Penn State quickly came to the realization it must rely heavily on Hackenberg this season as the offensive line continues to gel and the running game struggles. UCF, meanwhile, will almost certainly move forward with Holman behind center, and the Knights will be a better team for it.

Halftime: Penn State QB is the difference in Croke Park Classic

3 Comments

Quarterback play is what currently separates the Penn State Nittany Lions from the UCF Knights in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland. The Nittany Lions lead the Knights 10-3 thanks to the play of sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

Early in the contest, the Knights were winning at the line of scrimmage. The Nittany Lions running game was shut down, and Hackenberg was under duress when he dropped back to pass. The 11 yards on the ground Penn State did accumulate came courtesy of Hackenberg scrambling from the pocket.

Penn State adjusted by moving the pocket and allowed Hackenberg to take over in the passing game. The sophomore was able to complete multiple passes on third down to extend drives which eventually resulted in points. At the half, Hackenberg is 17-of-26 passing for 218 yards. Redshirt freshman wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton was the biggest beneficiary of Hackenberg’s play with 107 receiving yards through two quarters.

Hackenberg was allowed to get on track after a roughing the punter penalty granted the Nittany Lions a first down during their initial drive. Hackenberg connected with Hamilton for a 44-yard gain, which eventually resulted in a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Zach Zwinak. The score held up as the difference going into halftime.

Pete DiNovo, meanwhile, struggled during his first start as UCF’s quarterback. DiNovo was 3-of-7 passing for 18 yards. The quarterback’s inability to connect in the passing game allowed Penn State to load the box and shut down the Knights’ running game. The Knights only had 17 yards via the ground game.

Due to DiNovo’s ineffectiveness, UCF head coach George O’Leary replaced him just before halftime with sophomore Justin Holman, who served as Blake Bortles’ backup last season.

O’Leary now has a decision to make coming out of halftime. Will he allow Holman to continue at quarterback, or will the coach go back to DiNovo?

The answer will decide UCF’s fate during the second half of play.

George O’Leary names UCF’s starting QB…sort of

Leave a comment

UCF head coach George O’Leary previously stated he would name the Knights’ new starting quarterback Sunday. He didn’t go quite that far.

O’Leary did indicate which quarterback would be the opening-day starter if the season began today.

DiNovo is somewhat of a surprise choice to become Blake Bortles‘ successor.

Both DiNovo and Justin Holman were recruited in the 2013 class. While DiNovo redshirted, Holman served as Bortles’ primary back and played in three games as a true freshman. O’Leary’s decision indicates DiNovo developed at a greater rate than Holman did between last year and this summer.

With DiNovo leading the way, O’Leary has to determine the rest of the depth chart. Sophomore Nick Patti and freshman Tyler Harris were also a part of the competition. O’Leary has an idea where all four quarterbacks currently stand.

O’Leary wanted to name his quarterback at this point in the process to build chemistry in the huddle. Now that the coach has indicated which of the signal callers is currently considered the favorite, the Knights can place their full attention on the Penn State Nittany Lions and their meeting Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland.

UCF plans to name Blake Bortles’ successor by end of weekend

Leave a comment

Who will replace Blake Bortles as UCF’s starting quarterback?

The Knights’ coaching staff still doesn’t have an answer to that question, but one should be coming very soon.

UCF head coach George O’Leary told reporters he wants to name his starter Sunday in order to build chemistry in the huddle. The coach has plenty of options from which to choose.

Sophomore Justin Holman is considered the favorite after entering fall camp atop the depth chart. Holman was the team’s primary backup last season and played in three games. Pete DiNovo was in the same recruiting class as Holman, but he redshirted last season and now gets his chance to compete for the starting spot. Freshman Tyler Harris is a four-star recruit with plenty of natural ability. Finally, Boise State transfer Nick Patti arrived on campus this summer after being a promising three-star recruit as part of Boise State’s 2012 recruiting class.

“Once coach makes a decision, it’ll be somewhat of relief for everyone just so we don’t have to answer that question people are always asking,” senior wide receiver J.J. Worton told the Orlando Sentinel‘s Shannon Owens-Green.

With O’Leary’s decision only a day away, the picture has started to clarify for the rest of the team.

“I think it’s starting to show itself and reveal itself,” said Charlie Taaffe, UCF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “But having said that, none of these guys have really played any significant gamer. … So now we have to see how they perform in a game. Some guys are great practice players, but can’t transfer it to the game field and vice versa. Some guys show up on game days. We’re still learning. You got four guys that we know very little about and that’s the way it is.”

Whichever quarterback is eventually named the starter won’t be eased into the position. The Knights open their season Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland against the Penn State Nittany Lions.