Central Florida’s offense had been ineffective through much of the first half on Saturday against Penn State when quarterback Justin Holman entered the game with 14 seconds left.
He promptly was sacked by Penn State’s C.J. Olaniyan, but Holman’s day got better from there.
In the second half, Holman, a 6-foot-4 and 213-pound sophomore from Snellville, Ga., completed nine of 14 passes for 204 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, with no interceptions.
Holman also scored on runs of one and six yards, though Central Florida’s comeback bid fell short when the Nittany Lions prevailed 26-24 on a field goal as time expired.
Under different circumstances, Holman might be on the home sideline Saturday for the 11:01 a.m. kickoff on the SEC Network.
Missouri offered Holman, but wound up signing second-string quarterback Eddie Printz and Trent Hosick, who left the program last spring, from the class of 2013.
“We’re just aware of him,” Pinkel said. “We evaluated him. We evaluate hundreds and hundreds of quarterbacks, but we know he’s a very good athlete and very impressed.”
Without question, Holman — who started the season behind redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo but came in after DiNovo went three of eight for 18 yards — provided a jolt for the Knights, who ought to get another pick-me-up with the return of running back William Stanback. He sat out the season-opener in Dublin with a foot injury.
“My understanding is Holman is the projected starter and he played really well in the second half,” Pinkel said. “He threw for a couple hundred yards. He had three plays for about 150 yards, big plays downfield. (He’s) athletic, has a good release. I’m very impressed with him.”
Q: Was Penn State's run defense that good or does UCF have some serious issues running the football? And given Missouri's penchant for allowing big gainers on the ground, how confident are the Knights they'll have more success after a couple weeks off?
Owens-Green: “Surely, it was a combination of both. Penn State was able to stalemate UCF’s offensive line and pressure starting quarterback Pete DiNovo in the first half, so this limited what the Knights wanted to do in the running game. Because UCF dug itself into an early hole and found its greatest success on the passing game, when backup quarterback Justin Holman came in, they stuck with what was working. Holman passed for 204 yards — all in the second half.
“Also of note, UCF’s No. 1 running back, Will Stanback, (he) was out with a foot injury but is expected to be ready for the Missouri game Saturday. Interesting enough, players weren’t defeated by the loss. They were ready to get back on the football field and correct their mistakes. If anything, they didn’t want the bye week so they could shake off the bad plays against Penn State.”
Q: Is it fair to say Justin Holman has secured the starting quarterback job and what are his strengths? How much, if any, will we see Pete Dinovo?
Owens-Green: “That would be a resounding yes. Holman’s clutch playmaking abilities showed that he is clearly the frontrunner for UCF this season. Coaches also knew he had talent and the ability to throw the deep ball, but his biggest weakness throughout the offseason was his inconsistency. At times, he was inaccurate and I believe his reserved demeanor sometimes hurt him from a perception standpoint.
“While DiNovo lacked Holman’s arm strength, he was consistent and coaches thought if he could put the ball in play, they had enough playmakers on the ground and air game to make it work. DiNovo faced a tough test heading out to Ireland and playing Penn State for his first college game, but unfortunately, UCF doesn’t have the time to wait on his growth. That, and Holman proved he was the more game-ready quarterback despite what they’d seen in practice.”
Q: Missouri's secondary doesn't have extensive experience? Do the Knights think they can exploit that given their abundance of experience at wide receiver?
Owens-Green: “UCF coaches haven’t talked about that much, nor would I expect them to tip their hand. But I imagine they’re well aware of Missouri’s strengths and weaknesses. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a veteran group of receivers going up against an inexperienced secondary, of course.”
Q: Missouri has a tremendous pass rush, spearheaded by Markus Golden and Shane Ray, a ground game that's been punishing at times the last two seasons and an unpredictable quarterback with moxie and a love for the deep ball in Maty Mauk — what's the biggest concern for Central Florida on Saturday?”
Owens-Green: “Well, Missouri’s defense would be one of their biggest concerns, for sure. Offensive line coach Brent Key said he knows UCF will have their hands full in slowing down the pass rush, particularly with two younger lineman, Aaron Evans (redshirt freshman) and Colby Watson (sophomore) in the mix. But I think UCF’s defense is ready for the challenge of slowing down Maty Mauk. It was quite a letdown for UCF’s veteran defense to fail in stopping Penn State on the final drive of the game and they’re licking their chops to prove they are better than what we saw two weeks ago.”