George O'Leary Owes UCF Fans an Apology: Time for Jeff Godfrey To Start at QB

Jeff LeadbeaterContributor ISeptember 12, 2010

George O'Leary thought the fans were wrong to boo Rob Calabrese in their 2010 opener. After his dismal performance against NC State, the fans may have a point.
George O'Leary thought the fans were wrong to boo Rob Calabrese in their 2010 opener. After his dismal performance against NC State, the fans may have a point.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Last week, George O'Leary went after the fans of UCF college football, saying they were out of line booing junior starting quarterback Rob Calabrese.

Then again, UCF fans who booed him multiple times might have had a point.

Calabrese earned the ire of the Bounce House in 2008, when he was pushed into the role of starting quarterback. Neither he nor the original starter, Michael Greco, were all that great. In nine starts during UCF's 4-8 season, Calabrese only had a QB rating higher than 86.0 twice, completing 39 percent of his passes for 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

He then served as backup behind senior quarterback Brett Hodges in 2009, who was returning after spending most of his college career injured. The one game Calabrese had to start was at Texas. That's all that needs to be said about that.

O'Leary felt he had reason to feel confident about Calabrese's performance following their win over South Dakota last week. Especially when the Coyotes, an FCS school for whom the Knights were their first ever I-A opponent, turned around and beat Big Ten stalwart Minnesota. At Minnesota's home opener, no less.

But Calabrese proved any confidence was misplaced. Against NC State, a return game following a UCF away victory in 2007, he went 10-of-18 for 106 yards, throwing two interceptions. A third pick was thrown by receiver Nico Flores on an option play.


Calabrese's last play was a pick-six to put the Wolf Pack up 28-7 with less than six minutes in the third quarter. It was at that point that Coach O'Leary had no choice but to unwrap true freshman recruit Jeffrey Godfrey.

Godfrey, nicknamed "Mr. Dade Football," was named Florida Class 6A Player of the Year in 2009, and had a remarkable record for Miami Central High School. He was All-District all four years of his high school career, and holds the Miami-Dade County all-time passing record with 7,251 yards. As a senior, he throw for 2,758 yards and 36 touchdowns.

He not only committed to UCF, he enrolled early in January 2010 and participated in spring practice. He went 6-of-7 with a touchdown pass after the starters were pulled against South Dakota.

Godfrey came into the game with 5:17 to go in the third quarter. He then led the Knights on a six-minute, 12-play drive, finishing it with a six-yard touchdown run. After exchanging possession a few times, the Knights defense quickly got the ball back to Godfrey, and he led a second touchdown drive, this time eight plays in 3 1/2 minutes, finishing with another rushing touchdown to bring UCF within a touchdown at 28-21.

Godfrey had the Knights on a potential game-tying drive in the final minute, but it ended after a Quincy McDuffie reception at the NC State 11, when McDuffie was hit after catching to knock the ball loose for UCF's fifth turnover.

The situation for Rob Calabrese wouldn't even be so bad if it wasn't contrasted off Jeff Godfrey's heroic performance. Godfrey finished 7-of-10 for 107 yards, rushing for another 53 yards and two touchdowns.

Now, with the ill feelings of UCF fans justified, George O'Leary is left with the choice of sticking to his guns with an ill-proven junior under center, or going with the hot hand in his true freshman.

One thing is certain: Jeffrey Godfrey has proven he's up to the challenge.