Behind Bortles, UCF blasts Ball State in Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl
St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - The Central Florida senior class tallied its school-record 34th win, but it was sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles who led the way.
And the Knights left Conference USA with a bang.
Bortles threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score in UCF's 38-17 rout of Ball State in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
"He moved the ball downfield very easily, and I'm sure they're excited to have him back for another two years," Ball State coach Pete Lembo said of Bortles.
The Knights (10-4) will head to the Big East next season.
Bortles accumulated 272 yards through the air on 22-of-33 efficiency and added 80 yards rushing for UCF, which suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to Tulsa in the Conference USA title game that would've given it a berth in the Liberty Bowl. The consolation for UCF was getting to play about 100 miles from campus.
"I thought Blake did everything he needed to do by making the right decisions," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "Basically, he made the right decisions that moved us down the field. He really showed tonight why he's our guy out there."
The Knights were an astounding 9-of-12 on third down.
Latavius Murray ran for 77 yards on 21 totes and a score, while adding two touchdowns receiving in the victory.
Keith Wenning was 22-of-34 for 217 yards and two touchdowns for the Cardinals (9-4), who were looking for the school's first-ever bowl victory.
Ball State had won six in a row coming in.
The Knights jumped all over the Cardinals right from the onset and recorded touchdowns on four of their five possessions in the opening half.
UCF slowly matriculated down the field on its initial march and took 7:33 of the clock as it traveled 78 yards in 13 plays. Bortles capped the drive when he eluded safety Jarrett Swaby, who came on a blitz, and stepped up in the pocket before finding Murray for a 7-yard score.
Following a Ball State three-and-out, Murray finished off a 7-play, 58-yard trek with a 2-yard TD plunge. The extra point was blocked as UCF led, 13-0.
After an exchange of punts, Wenning's 7-yard TD toss to Willie Snead on a back-shoulder fade cut the deficit to 13-7 early in the second.
Bortles showed his rushing ability on UCF's ensuing possession.
He ran three times for 32 yards on the march, which was capped when Bortles took on two Ball State defenders at the 2-yard line, lowered his shoulder and bulled his way for the 6-yard score.
Steven Schott missed wide left on a 35-yard field goal on Ball State's ensuing series, and the Knights got the ball back at the 20 with 55 ticks left in the half.
On a 2nd-and-5 from their own 37, Bortles floated a pass down the right sideline for Breshad Perriman, who ran a streak route, and hit him in stride for a 45-yard gain to put the ball at the Ball State 18.
Bortles then flipped a 5-yard swing pass in the right flat to Murray for a touchdown and a 28-7 UCF advantage heading into the break.
Schott nailed a 45-yard field goal before J.J. Worton hauled in a 7-yard score and Shawn Moffitt booted through a 25-yard field goal, which made it 38-10 early in the fourth.
Snead caught a 16-yard touchdown pass later in the frame to conclude the scoring.
Murray finished his career with 44 touchdowns, which is second most in school history behind Kevin Smith's 46 scores ... UCF's 10 wins are the second most in program history ... Ball State moved to 0-6 all time in bowl games ... UCF fell to Rutgers in its first trip the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in 2009 ... Bortles became UCF's first 3,000-yard passer since 2002.
12/22 03:09:57 ET