WHAT WENT WRONG
The first half
Any time you enter halftime trailing and have less than 100 total yards as a team, it's not good. UCF did just that on Saturday. Pete DiNovo's debut as a starting quarterback was unsuccessful as he struggled to complete passes, finishing 3-for-8, and failed to establish big plays. Whether that falls on the shoulders of DiNovo, or something else, I don't know.
The run game
Minutes before the opening kickoff it was reported that William Stanback would not play in the Croke Park Classic. When DiNovo was named the starting quarterback, many assumed that Stanback would be the workhorse for the offense. Instead that role was assumed by Dontravious Wilson, who had seven carries in his freshman season, and the results were unspectacular Saturday as he finished averaging 1.6 yards per carry.
The pass defense
While certain players in the secondary had solid statistical games, (Jacoby Glenn, Jordan Ozerities and Clayton Geathers came up with turnovers), it proved to be insignificant as Christian Hackenberg routinely roasted the secondary for huge gains en route to amassing 454 yards in the air.
3rd and 17
UCF was poised to get the ball back on third and 17, presumably with decent field position, and instead the entire UCF secondary bit on a vicious double move that resulted in a 79-yard touchdown. I'm no coach, but that can never happen. Converting a 3rd and 17 is rare, but to allow a deep touchdown in that situation is a big no-no.
UCF cost itself a few times with penalties, and one especially could have changed the outcome of the game. On Penn State's opening possession, UCF roughed the punter on fourth down, so rather than getting the ball back, it gave Penn State the ball back on a drive that ended with a touchdown.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
This goes without saying. Holman entered the game briefly in the first half before replacing DiNovo on the offense's second drive and began to rally the team. Holman was able to connect on big plays to Breshad Perriman and J.J. Worton. Holman completed 9 of 14 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown, as well as added two rushing touchdowns. He also has made it very difficult not to start him against Missouri.
Last season Penn State was able to pound UCF on the ground for more than 150 yards. This season, however, UCF limited the big Penn State backs to just 57 yards and 2 yards per carry. The defensive line, although it provided minimal pass rush, was stout up front and bottled up Penn State's power-running attack.
Rarely do you force three turnovers and lose a game. UCF did just that. Jacoby Glenn came away with an impressive interception in the first half, and Clayton Geathers recovered a fumble. Also, Jordan Ozerities had an interception, so three out of four secondary players forced turnovers.
As a receiver, Worton showed that he is a playmaker. He had multiple catches in which he made dynamic plays after the catch, and provided a security blanket for both DiNovo and Holman. He posted a solid five-catch, 83-yard day.
UCF kickoff returners were interesting with Rannell Hall out with an injury. Akins, a WR/TE, and Michael Easton, a defensive back who once played linebacker were the two returners. Akins gave UCF a spark when it needed it most in the first half, and was able to rip off a 68-yard return.