Football: QB Bortles Leads Knights to 1-0 Start
The UCF football team ushered in a new era in the American Athletic Conference by rewriting the record books Thursday night in its 38-7 win over Akron.
History was made in just 58 seconds.
After a shaky start recovering a fumble in their own territory on the first play of the game, the Knights quickly recovered. They shattered open the game when quarterback Blake Bortles found sophomore receiver Breshad Perriman down the Knights’ sideline. Perriman took one cut to the left, juking two Zips defenders, and sprinted the remainder of the 91 yards to the house for a 7-0 lead.The pass broke the UCF school record for the longest play from scrimmage and longest pass play. Prior to Thursday, the longest pass in UCF history belonged to Darin Slack’s 87-yard touchdown strike to Bernard Ford on Oct. 24, 1987. Perriman finished the night with a career-high 113 yards receiving in the game.
Basically, it was a defining moment.
“It was a great start. I didn’t believe that play was going to come to me,” Perriman said. “Every time I touch the ball I want to score. Honestly, I thought somebody was going to tackle me from behind. I feel I motivated everybody else to come out and play to their full potential.”
The Knights put up impressive numbers in front of more than 35,000 in attendance. UCF nearly doubled Akron’s total offensive yards (476 to 250) thanks to a career night from Bortles with his 314 passing yards and three touchdowns.
The defense was solid, allowing the Zips just 145 yards through the first three quarters and held them scoreless until 42 seconds remained in the game. Junior linebacker Terrance Plummer led the defensive charge with 10 tackles, three for loss.
“Everybody talks about the offense, and the offense is a big part of UCF. Defense is also a big part,” Plummer said. “I think tonight was a statement that we had to come out and do everything right and play hard.”
After the explosive 91-yard score, UCF closed out the first quarter with a 19-yard touchdown reception across the middle by junior receiver Rannell Hall to cap a 91-yard, 12-play drive.
The second quarter lulled until Bortles pulled off a flash of magic with seven minutes remaining. While UCF’s quarterback evaded a defender, the ball popped out of his hands. He quickly recovered, grabbing the ball out of the air, scrambling, eluding more defenders and slinging it across his body while on the run to a darting J.J. Worton for a 39-yard touchdown. That score increased UCF’s lead to 21-0.
“That’s what separates quarterbacks who can make plays from those who can’t,” UCF head coach George O’Leary said of Bortles’ save. “I thought he was on top of his game.”
UCF wasn’t done yet. Junior Shawn Moffitt capped the first half with a 32-yard field goal to send the Knights into the locker room with a 24-0 advantage.
The night continued to drag for the Zips as UCF running back Storm Johnson helped up the score another 7 points after taking the handoff and bouncing outside for a 9-yard scamper with 9:38 remaining in the third.
The Knights’ defense set up the offense for another score when junior linebacker Troy Gray snatched his first career interception and returned it to the Akron 48-yard line. Bortles aired it out to Josh Reese, threading the pass to the redshirt junior inside the red zone. With the play, Bortles became the first Knight to breach 300 yards passing in four years.
Once again, Johnson piled on to the lopsided score, plowing in a 1-yard touchdown for a 38-0 lead.
Fifty-eight of the 66 Knights who dressed for the game made an appearance on the field. The Zips finally got points on the board when Nick Hirschman connected with Imani Davis on an 11-yard pass with less than a minute remaining in the game.
“I thought the kids went out and showed a lot of consistency,” O’Leary said. “Overall, we played a lot of players and they had the opportunity to get in there and see where they are at. It was a good, solid win in the kicking game, offense and defense. Obviously we have some work to do in some areas, but overall I was pleased.”
UCF travels to FIU on Sept. 6 for an 8 p.m. kickoff, set to air on CBS Sports Network.