There is no question Blake Bortles and last year's showing from UCF elevated expectations for the program. But now, fans want to see consistency, coaches feel like they have seen the program break out, and returning players have the confidence of success.
That collective spirit creates moments like this week. Coming off an opening conference road win and looking towards a home matchup against Taysom Hillless BYU, one would expect the mood to be positive among Knights faithful.
Instead, criticism has been abundant, especially when it comes to Bortles' replacement at quarterback, Justin Holman. After a fairly strong debut, Holman has struggled with his accuracy, highlighted by an inconsistent 6-for-18 night against the Cougars last Thursday.
The missed throws even prompted comment on Monday from head coach George O'Leary, who hinted that Boise State transfer Nick Patti could get time under center.
"If we're struggling at all at quarterback, [Patti's] gonna see action," O'Leary said. "We just gotta get things going offensively. We have too many good players at certain positions that need to get the ball in their hands and we gotta get it to them quickly and do the things that we're supposed to do."
Naturally, people love a quarterback controversy — so UCF fans took that remark and ran with it on social media. While O'Leary's quote stirred the pot, preaching patience in that spot could also be advantageous.
Bortles' elite ability to lift the Knights last season has skewed the mind when it comes to what can be expected from a UCF QB.
Holman still has the most talent on the roster at that position. His struggles thus far are not the same as original starter Pete DiNovo, who did not look ready to hold his own against top-level competition.
There are flashes of brilliance, including the throw with a defender wrapped around his leg against Houston. The issue is simple — Holman merely needs to add the experience to compliment his ability.
O'Leary should understand that by now and may have used the media as a vehicle for motivation. If all hope looks lost with Holman by the second half Thursday, by all means play Patti — but be careful what you wish for.
Remember that the former local high school star would be the third man to get the call. There may be rare examples of that player surprising and outshining the rest, but it is far from the norm.
Thursday's situation actually sets up well for Holman's success. BYU heads to Orlando with every disadvantage imaginable.
Traveling cross country on a short week after losing their Heisman contender and giving up 457 yards to Utah State is no walk in the park.
Another dominating performance from the UCF defense seems likely, taking much of the onus off Holman — he merely needs to make just a handful of big plays to come out with a victory, a Bortles-level performance isn't necessary. And with UCF's next five games mostly coming against the American's bottom feeders, there is plenty of room for growth and momentum for the young quarterback, and the Knights as a whole.
Justin Holman is never going to be Blake Bortles, but he can still be a winner for the Knights.