After more than two weeks of training camp, coach Matt Rhule has named junior Connor Reilly the team’s starting quarterback in the season opener at Notre Dame.
Reilly beat out senior Clinton “Juice” Granger and freshman P.J. Walker to win the job. Although Reilly entered training camp coming off a strong spring, Rhule has consistently brought up the strong play of Granger during practice in recent weeks.
“Juice has played great, and he’s put himself in position where he could start for us and would play really well if he did,” Rhule said. “We just made the decision that Connor—we felt, as a team, that Connor would do the best job for us, so we’re starting him.”
Reilly was informed by Rhule of the news just an hour before the first-year coach announced it to the media.
“I was smiling,” Reilly said. “It was a competition to the very end though. Clinton was neck-and-neck with me to the very end. Coach Rhule made his decision based on the scrimmage Wednesday.”
Rhule said Granger took the news like “a great professional and a team guy.” Granger, who enters his final season with the team, was one of nine Owls to receive a single digit number awarded for toughness (as voted on by the team).
“Ultimately it’s not my decision, it’s up to the coaches,” Granger said. “You just need to stay humble and hungry and continue to just keep working.”
Reilly has had quite an eventful past few years in college athletics. Drafted for the football team, his playing time has been limited during his first two seasons on the roster. In 2012, he found himself a walk on for the Temple baseball team. Now, Reilly is a little more than one week away from starting against a team in Notre Dame that played in the national championship last year.
“I’m trying to take a deep breath, count to three, slow everything down,” Reilly said. “It’s definitely going to be a great experience. But once we enter the field on Saturday and the ball hits my hand, it’s just a football game.”
Reilly and the Owls will take on Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. on Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. in what will be a nationally televised matchup.
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.