Quarterback Impresses in Blowout

There was not much that went right in the Knights demolition at the hands of the UTEP Miners last Saturday. To find a silver lining in a 58-13 rout, you usually have to search pretty hard. The good news for UCF is that they only had to look under center to find reason for optimism.

True freshman quarterback Rob Calabrese started his first NCAA football game and although the outcome was certainly forgettable, the play of Calabrese gave UCF fans hope for the very near future. Calabrese was much better than his 13-31 passing day suggested, as he was the victim of several drops, and nearly made some huge plays.

Calabrese's solid play drew praise from his head coach.

"I think that one bright spot was Calabrese," Coach O'Leary told reporters in his Tuesday press conference. "Michael (Greco) was not 100 percent, and he makes a living with his feet. Calabrese got the start and had three or four passes dropped that were big plays. I think he plays fast, and I like quarterbacks who play fast. This week I am listing (the quarterbacks) either/or. I think you have to constantly evaluate Tuesday's, Wednesday's and Thursday's practice and grade it. You go as your quarterbacks go for the most part."

Not many expected Calabrese to get playing time as a freshman, and fewer believed that he would be the starting quarterback. With the injury to junior Michael Greco in the Boston College game, Calabrese has earned an opportunity to keep the starting quarterback job.

"He (Greco) is practicing full time," O'Leary told reporters. "He is listed as full (speed), but he doesn't seem to be running at full speed. He is getting the same amount of snaps as Calabrese is getting, and I told the quarterback coach I want to see the grade after every practice on every play, and we will make a game-time decision on that. We are the kind of team that you are going to have to have a couple quarterbacks available, and those are the two we are going with."

An injury that will affect whichever player starts at quarterback will be that of senior wide receiver Rocky Ross. Ross dislocated his shoulder in the UTEP game and will miss the rest of the season.

"We lost a couple of guys this weekend," O'Leary said. "Rocky Ross is out for the year. I will put in a red-shirt for him. It should be legitimized by the injury."

Where the Knights lost one receiver, they gained another as sophomore Kamar Aiken returned from a foot injury that cost him the team's first three games. In his first game of the 2008 season, Aiken led the team with five receptions for 58 yards, including an acrobatic touchdown catch.

Although Knights fans would certainly like to move past the sloppy play and the outcome of their team's Conference USA opener, they have to be pleased with the play of their true freshman quarterback. Calabrese, known to be a pocket passer, also gave UCF a surprising dimension of mobility, as he led the team with 86 yards rushing on 11 carries, and looked like a smooth, athletic runner.

If Rob Calabrese can build on his own performance from the UTEP game, the Knights could be in store for some great things for the rest of the 2008 season.

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