For many UCF fans, the opening game struggles of Pete DiNovo Saturday against Penn State seemed all too familiar. With the glow of Blake Bortles in the rearview mirror, a failing that had once plagued the George O'Leary era resurfaced.
This is not the first time that the Knights have started the season with one quarterback only to switch to another more successful signal caller. There have been a few DiNovos and Justin Holmans in the 11 year O'Leary tenure.
In 2009, Rob Calabrese started the year after replacing Michael Greco the previous season. The talk around Calabrese centered on how great he looked in spring and fall camp, but that player was never seen on the game field.
It took two awful showings against Samford and at Southern Miss before a 5th year senior transfer from Wake Forest, Brett Hodges, replaced the sophomore as starter. Calabrese's start against the Golden Eagles likely cost UCF that game and if Samford was not an FCS opponent, the Knights would have lost that one too.
In 2010, UCF had their best season in program history to that point, but it certainly did not look headed in that direction at the start. Calabrese again found his way to the top of the depth chart, ahead of highly touted freshman Jeff Godfrey and his less ballyhooed classmate Bortles.
Then a junior, Calabrese performed admirably in the opener against South Dakota State and Godfrey showed well when he played in 4th quarter garbage time. Game two saw a different script. Calabrese threw two picks, Godfrey came in to rally the Knights, but they fell short at home against NC State.
With Holman's impressive outing against the Nittany Lions, the same script repeated for the third time. Fortunately, the sophomore looks poised to repeat the success that Hodges and Godfrey both had coming in in relief.
It would not be surprising if UCF went on to win next week at Missouri and take home another conference title in the American.
What is more interesting is the pattern of missteps out of the gates. It is not a sequence of events easily rationalized or explained.
It is extremely hard to find a quarterback and even harder to replace a great one. Certain guys tear it up on the practice fields, while others only know how to go full steam when the lights are on.
The lack of quarterback stability pre-Bortles probably held UCF back from an even faster ascent to respectability.
Since 2004, he is the only standout QB developed in the program. Steven Moffett had his confidence broken, Kyle Israel only got one full season as a starter, Greco moved to safety, and Godfrey had a good year before he regressed.
UCF has always had great defenses and good running games, but quarterbacks make and break legacies. The hope now for Knights fans is that Holman will be another kingmaker for O'Leary.