UCF battles for consistency
The Knights were looking to redemption after a heartbreaker, returning to the field after a week and a half off leading up to Wednesday night’s big game against UAB.
But the Knights’ biggest battle may have been against consistency in their first five games on the field. Early on, Head Coach George O’Leary chided the offensive line for failing to protect the passer long enough to open up plays downfield.
That cost the team dearly early on, he said, both in yardage and in confidence. The team was rocked so much during a stunning loss to N.C. State that O’Leary switched his starting quarterbacks seemingly overnight.
That came thanks to a surprise performance by freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey, who found plays where the called play had disintegrated, scrambling for two big touchdowns to put his team on the board when they’d failed to find any offense for three quarters.
But against Kansas State, things fell apart again for the Knights. Godfrey struggled. Pressure led to two interceptions and many dropped or inaccurate passes. Unflappable in his early performances that earned him his second straight start of the season, Godfrey gave O’Leary reason to doubt.
So O’Leary announced early this week that he’d be playing both Godfrey and junior quarterback Rob Calabrese regularly. Despite prior assertions that he was a “one quarterback coach”, O’Leary said that he saw Godfrey needed time on the sidelines to analyze mistakes, rather than dealing with them on the field.
With playing time now nearly split between the two quarterbacks, O’Leary may have decided on how to segment them. The only question remains: Will Calabrese be happy as a teaching tool for Godfrey? So far he’s indicated yes, saying he was happy to help with calling plays from the sidelines while Godfrey runs the game from the field.
Will the Knights find consistency through inconsistent playing time on the field? So far, that’s been a problem. When Calabrese starts and Godfrey finishes, the Knights are 1-1. When Godfrey starts and plays most of the game, he’s also 1-1. Both of the Knights losses came from late game collapses on the verge of victory.
In the Knights’ most recent loss to Kansas State, critics said O’Leary should have allowed Godfrey to call his own plays on crucial points in drives that would have spelled the difference between defeat and victory. Instead he had to stick to the playbook, and the Knights failed to capitalize.
As a long season against Conference USA opponents lingers beyond the University of Alabama at Birmingham game, the Knights are looking to find consistency, and in a hurry.
Next Wednesday night, the Knights travel to play perennial rival Marshall. The Thundering Herd is 1-4 this season. Lucky for the Knights, they’re off to one of their worst starts in a decade.
Against Southern Miss last week, the Herd’s offense faltered badly in the first half, not reaching the end zone until the third quarter. Meanwhile they let the Golden Eagles light up the scoreboard four times in the first half alone.
Lucky for the Knights, Marshall is platooning A.J. Graham and Brian Anderson at quarterback, suffering from its own passing game issues. Anderson only picked up 16 yards in the first half against Southern Miss.