In UCF's second drive of the second half, it was time to make a change.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Holman trotted onto the field at Croke Park, and it didn't take long for the impact to be evident. In his second pass of the game he fired a laser to senior J.J. Worton for an 18-yard gain. The next play, he completed a 50-yard pass to Breshad Perriman — a pass that covered more field than UCF's entire offense did in the first half against Penn State.
"He came in with high energy; he knew he we had to get something going," Worton said. "He came in and made plays when he had to."
Although his stellar second-half performance wasn't enough to rally the Knights to comeback victory, it was enough for Holman to earn the starting nod against Missouri on Saturday at noon.
"I think Justin obviously deserves the opportunity for what he did in the second half [against] Penn State to get the nod this week," head coach George O'Leary said.
The energy in the huddle and on the sideline was evident soon after Holman entered the game. Holman's dual-threat ability allowed him to complete nine of 14 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for two more touchdowns.
"As an offensive lineman, you understand that as a quarterback, you need a presence," junior center Joey Grant said. "He came in the game and made some plays happen."
Following his final score, which gave UCF a late lead, he sprinted through the end zone and to his teammates on the sideline to celebrate.
"I feel like [the difference] was the energy level," senior safety Brandon Alexander said. "Everyone came out a little flat-footed."
Boosting energy has been something Holman has done throughout his two seasons at UCF.
Holman enrolled at UCF a semester early, and eventually earned the role as Blake Bortles' primary backup last season ahead of fellow early-enrollee Pete DiNovo. Holman was favored to win the starting job in spring camp, but was unable to secure the job. After an up-and-down camp, he lost the position to DiNovo.
During his first spring at UCF, he impressed teammates with his strong arm and confidence in the huddle. Just months from suiting up at Stephenson High School, Holman had dazzled a veteran offense and coaching staff, many of whom have been coaching longer than Holman has been alive.
"He just needs to be himself," O'Leary said. "The game plan is in place and I think he just needs to go out and execute it. The only pressure he's going to [have] is what he puts on himself."
In limited snaps last season, Holman completed nine of 14 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. He nearly brought the house down against UConn last season when he ran over a defender. In the blowout win, he also tossed his first career touchdown pass.
Since taking over the starting gig officially on Thursday, Holman is settling in, teammates say.
"He's been comfortable, he's been relaxed. He's been in the huddle taking over control and keeping us settled down," Worton said. "As long as he can be consistent, he'll be fine."
• Running back William Stanback and wide receiver Rannell Hall are expected to play Saturday. Both were sidelined against Penn State with injuries.
• Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk lit up Toledo last week, posting 325 passing yards and six total touchdowns.
• Missouri lost its starting quarterback, running back, top four receivers and both starting defensive ends to the NFL last season.