The resounding answer that Kelly got and the scene painted for him by the center gave him a good idea of what was about to unfold at Bright House Networks Stadium.
“They were on the sidelines warming up when Jeff was getting ready to go in and I asked Jordan, `How’s Jeff? Is he nervous?”’ Kelly remembered. “(Rae) said, `Coach, we were on the sidelines taking snaps and (Godfrey) grabbed me by my chest and said, `Listen to me: I’ve been here before. I’m going to lead us to victory. Just follow me.’
“Jordan said that (Godfrey) wasn’t bragging or anything like that and it was so matter of fact,” Kelly continued. “That’s how that kid feels about himself and it’s infectious. He does it in a way where it’s not cocky. He does it in a way where it incites belief and confidence in his other teammates.”
Godfrey certainly sparked his teammates against NC State, leading UCF to two scores and within 28-21 before a fifth turnover of the Knights ended the rally.
Whereas Godfrey worked his magic in relief last week, he might get a chance do it as a starter on Saturday night when UCF (1-1) travels to Buffalo (1-1). Godfrey and junior Rob Calabrese have split reps with the first string this week in practice, and head coach George O’Leary has said that he’ll name a starter by Friday.
“Him and Rob are sharing first-string duties this week. And I told them they’ll be graded each day. I want to look at practice Monday through Thursday, and we’ll start the best kid,” O’Leary said. “Jeff is taking the first snaps right now, but again he has to continue doing the right things. Based on (Tuesday), he had a good day. (Monday) was so-so with a new game plan. (Wednesday) will be a big day for him. He’s a talented individual. As a coach, he makes a lot of things happen out there.”
Godfrey made things happen to the tune of 53 rushing yards and scores of six yards and one yard. He also completed 7-of-10 passes for another 107 yards, including a 29-yard strike to Jamar Newsome and a dazzling 20-yarder to Quincy McDuffie on UCF’s final offensive play.
O’Leary doesn’t let true freshmen talk with the media, but Godfrey’s teammates and coaches couldn’t stop talking about how impressed that they were with the 5-foot-11, 176-pound quarterback.
“I can’t say enough about Jeff Godfrey, a true freshman coming in one of the hardest positions to be successful at. For him to come in and really give us momentum with his playmaking abilities, hats off to him,” said UCF senior wide receiver Brian Watters, who led the Knights in catches (six) and receiving yards (88) on Saturday. “He’s a great player and he’s going to be great in the future.”
He might very well be the future of the program, but he reminds O’Leary of a quarterback in his past. Joe Hamilton was a record-setting quarterback at Georgia Tech under O’Leary despite being just 5-foot-10. He compiled an Atlantic Coast Conference record 10,640 total yards in his career and accounted for 65 touchdown passes and 83 total TDs.
O’Leary said that Godfrey possesses a lot of the same traits that helped make Hamilton one of the best players in the history of the ACC. Not only is he a talented player, but he also makes others around him better.
After Godfrey entered the game late in the third quarter, UCF responded with 14 points, nine first downs and 181 yards. And the Knights were 11 yards away from a third score with 51 seconds left that could have tied the game.
“Very much so,” O’Leary said when asked if Godfrey reminded him of Hamilton. “Same makeup. You know they’re very confident about themselves. Self-assured about what they do. And nothing really fazes them, which bothers me a little bit. You should be fazed a little bit out there. But that’s what you want. That’s contagious, I think, in the huddle.
“That’s one of the things I saw a little different with him out there. There seemed to be a little bit more step in the offense (with Godfrey),” O’Leary continued. “We have a good situation. I think both guys can win games for you. But the one’s that’s most productive is the guy you want on the field.”
Kelly, who also doubles as UCF’s wide receivers coach, led the recruitment of Godfrey after he set all kinds of prep passing records in Miami-Dade County and became Florida’s Class 6A Player of the Year. Kelly has been following the Godfrey’s arc as a quarterback for the past five years, and needless to say he wasn’t shocked when the quarterback electrified UCF’s fan base and nearly led the Knights back to a victory.
“There are few people who are blessed with certain things that others don’t have and he has it,” Kelly said. “That man from the eighth grade on has shown that. From the time when he was three years old when his dad first started training him, he happens to be a quarterback who is a great athlete, not a great athlete trying to be a quarterback. At seven years old in Pop Warner League, he’s been accustomed to playing and being `The Guy’ in front of 10-15,000 people. So when you talk about pressure, that means nothing to this kid.”
Kelly said Godfrey taught UCF’s fans a thing or two about games never being out of reach despite the deficit. And Kelly feels that the future is clearly bright for the dynamic quarterback — whether he earns his first collegiate start on Saturday night or not.
“At 28-7, I look around and see the stadium emptying. Then, all of a sudden I think people heard that Jeff Godfrey was going into the game and there were a bunch of U-turns,” Kelly said. “But those who did leave, they missed a show. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring it all the way back, but I think that everything that happens there’s a positive in it. That should spur us and I’m going to go on record and say that we should go 13-1 now. And that’s not a bad record.”
Source: John Denton’s Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.