Sophomore Justin Holman had big shoes to fill taking over as quarterback of the UCF Knights just one year after Blake Bortles, now the starting signal-caller for the Jacksonville Jaguars, led George O’Leary’s Knights to their best season in school history capped off with a win in the Fiesta Bowl. There have been bumps along the way for a UCF team that overcame early-season struggles in forming a “never quit” identity, and Thursday night’s dramatic 32-30 last-second victory over East Carolina will go a long way in erasing the growing pains Holman and a young offense experienced this year.
The Knights took a seemingly comfortable 26-9 lead into the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game, a contest they needed to win to share the AAC title with the Memphis Tigers, only to watch it slip away. The Knights gave up three touchdown passes from East Carolina’s Shane Carden as the Pirates rallied to take a 30-26 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
Clock mismanagement by the Pirates left the outcome in doubt until the final seconds. With Carden kneeling three consecutive times and then being sacked on fourth down, the Knights got the ball back with 10 seconds left, which set up the dramatic game winner.
On the last play of the game, Holman lofted a bomb to Breshad Perriman, who got behind the secondary to haul in the 51-yard game-winning pass. The touchdown sealed back-to-back conference titles for the Knights (9-3 overall, 7-1 AAC), who proved with yet another late game-winning rally that their “Cardiac Knights” moniker is well-deserved.