UCF coach George O’Leary was so confident that his surging Knights were going to score in the final minutes Saturday night and draw within a point of NC State that he actually started contemplating a potential game-winning two-point conversion once his team moved inside the red zone.
O’Leary certainly had plenty of reasoning for the positive vibes what with the way freshman phenom quarterback Jeff Godfrey had led the Knights to two second-half scores and put them into position for a potential tying or go-ahead moment.
“I had no doubt (UCF would score) and I was asking (offensive coordinator) Charlie (Taaffe) if he wanted to go for one or two,” O’Leary recalled. “That’s the way that you need to think and that’s the way the sideline was thinking. Football is such a game of momentum and we had it.”
UCF never got a chance to make the decision to go for the tie or the win because Quincy McDuffie took a hard hit on a Godfrey pass and fumbled the ball away at the 11-yard line with 51 seconds to play. The turnover, UCF’s fifth of the game, ended UCF’s stirring rally and left the Knights with a disappointing 28-21 loss to NC State.
In the moments after the game, the Knights couldn’t help but ponder what might have happened had they been able to eliminate mistakes and give the dazzling Godfrey a chance to make another big play from the 11-yard line.
“I can’t predict the future, but I would have liked to have the opportunity for us to keep the ball in that situation,” senior wide receiver Brian Watters said. “I felt we had their defense on their heels and anybody on our offense could have scored.”
The primary question now for UCF (1-1) heading into next Saturday’s nonconference game in Buffalo (1-1) is whether or not Godfrey becomes the starter at quarterback. Junior Rob Calabrese played well in the opener and started on Saturday, but threw two interceptions – both of which either directly or indirectly led to NC State touchdowns.
Godfrey, a Miami product who enrolled at UCF last January in hopes of winning the starting quarterback job, made the most of his time leading the offense even though UCF trailed 28-7 with 5:22 left in the third period.
He directed drives of 55 and 75 yards – both of which ended in scoring runs by the cat-quick quarterback to trim the deficit to 28-21. And on UCF’s final drive, Godfrey took the Knights another 39 yards – 20 of them coming on the pass to McDuffie that ended in a lost fumble. Godfrey finished with 53 rush yards and 107 pass yards on seven of 10 completions.
O’Leary planned to meet with his offensive staff Sunday afternoon and decide whether UCF will opt for Godfrey or Calabrese as his starter next Saturday. O’Leary said he would prefer to pick one quarterback and use that player for the duration of next week’s game.
“When Jeff’s in there, he has the ability to take a bad play and make a good play out of it, which separates him from Rob. That’s what I see and (Godfrey) is going to open up more things for us,” O’Leary said early Sunday afternoon. “We went with Rob and rightly so because he should have started the game. But I expect him to take a bad situation and get something out of it.
“I think we have a good situation and I don’t think there’s a chemistry situation or anything like that,” O’Leary continued. “When Jeff was out there, his No. 1 ally was Rob telling him what was going on. Whatever direction I go I want to talk to the offensive staff and the quarterbacks. But we’re in this game to win and I’m going to play the person who gives us the best chance to win.”
UCF (1-1) bettered NC State (2-0) in first downs (16-15) and total yards (308-239), but the Knights were their own worst enemy with the miscues. Calabrese threw two interceptions, while converted wide receiver Nico Flores was intercepted on a reverse pass. UCF lost possession and put the defense into a short-field situation when a punt bounced off Latavius Murray’s shin. Three of NC State’s four TDs came after UCF turnovers, frustrating the Knights greatly.
“The kids are annoyed and angered as they should be,” O’Leary said. “The game’s too hard already to be shooting yourself in the foot and still expect to win.”
O’Leary hinted that UCF could simplify its offense somewhat in an effort to cut down on the errors from last week. And O’Leary said that the Knights will tailor their offense to fit whichever quarterback that they choose as the starter.
“I’m not a big two-quarterback guy and I’m looking at the whole package out there,” O’Leary said. “I want to go with the guy who we have the best chance to win with with what we want to run. We’re trying to do a lot of things right now and I think we need to settle in on who we are as an offense.”
Source: John Denton’s Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.