Bortles leads UCF to Beef 'O' Brady's win
ST. PETERSBURG - Quarterback Blake Bortles threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as UCF dismantled Ball State 38-17 in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl on Friday night at Tropicana Field before a crowd of 21,759. Bortles, a redshirt sophomore, went 22-for-33 for 272 yards and rushed nine times for a career-high 79 yards. Redshirt senior running back Latavuis Murray added 71 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and caught two touchdown passes from Bortles. Bortles also hit J.J. Worton on a 7-yard scoring pass. With three touchdown passes, Bortles tied the bowl-game record set in 2008 by former USF quarterback Matt Grothe, who tossed three scores against Memphis. With his stellar performance Friday, Bortles became the first UCF quarterback since 2002 to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Bortles finished 2012 with 3,059 yards."Offensively, this is one of the best games we had all year," Bortles said. "Everyone just really picked up and went and that's why we won the way we did." Knights true freshman receiver Breshad Perriman caught five passes for a career-best 90 yards, including a big 45-yard catch in the second quarter that set up UCF's fourth touchdown. UCF (10-4) lost this bowl in 2009 to Rutgers, then coached by current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano. This was also the Knights fifth bowl game in nine years under coach George O' Leary. UCF jumped to a 13-0 lead, thanks to a 7-yard pass from Bortles to Murray and then Murray added a 2-yard run. Ball State answered with a 10-play, 82-yard drive that ended with a Keith Wenning 7-yard pass to Willie Snead. Wenning also hit Snead for a late 16-yard touchdown. Before halftime, the Knights added two more scores: Bortles had a diving 6-yard QB scramble and then hit Murray on a 5-yard screen pass. "Really impressed with (Bortles) and what he did and can do," Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. "He moved the ball downfield very easily and I'm sure (UCF) is excited to have him back for another two years." Ball State (9-4) is still seeking its first bowl win, having fallen short in nine tries. The Cardinals were appearing in a postseason game for the first time since the 2008 GMAC Bowl. The Knights' defense held Ball State to 286 yards — the Cardinals were averaging 471.3 per game, second in the MAC. Ball State had also scored 30 or more points 10 times this season. UCF sacked Wenning three times, two going to Thomas Niles, while Jonathan Davis recovered a Jahwan Edwards fumble. Wenning had 218 yards passing for Ball State.