Three and Out: Blake Bortles, No. 17 UCF bolster BCS hopes by crushing Rutgers
UCF can keep its sights set on the BCS. The No. 17 Knights used a big night on offense to trample a troubled Rutgers squad 41-17 on Thursday night for their sixth straight win.
Here are three thoughts from UCF’s victory in Orlando:
• Knights get offensive: Quarterback Blake Bortles and UCF are making things look easy on the offensive end of the football.
The Knights weren’t quite as productive as in last week’s win over Temple, when they gained a season-high 657 yards. Still, UCF had little trouble moving the ball against Rutgers. The Knights registered 452 yards of offense and were effective on third downs, converting nine of their 13 attempts.
Much of that production came through the team’s aerial attack, where Bortles put on a clinic for the second game in a row. Last week the junior threw for a career-high 404 yards against the Owls and followed that performance with 335 yards on 21-of-30 passing against Rutgers. Bortles helped UCF jump out to a quick start with 210 passing yards in the first half alongside one passing touchdown and another rushing score.
The Knights picked a good time to surge on offense: Their next two opponents, South Florida and SMU, have a combined 6-12 record.
• Reeling Rutgers: Rutgers started the season off on a high note by winning four of its first five games. But since losing to Louisville on Oct. 10, the wheels have come off for the Scarlet Knights.
Thursday’s loss to UCF marked Rutgers’ fourth loss in five games, and there’s blame to go around on both sides of the ball. On offense, quarterback Gary Nova kicked off his team’s first possession of the game by doing what he’s done far too often this season: Throwing an interception. Nova tossed his 14th pick of the year and UCF promptly turned that turnover into the first of three straight first-half touchdowns for the Knights. Before it knew what happened, Rutgers was staring at a 21-0 hole in the second quarter.
Nova only completed 11 of his 34 pass attempts for 107 yards, and with no rushing threat to speak of (69 yards on 19 carries) the offense couldn’t keep up with UCF. Rutgers limped to only 3-of-14 on third downs and a measly 3.6 yards per play.
But the Scarlet Knights’ defense stumbled as well. It’s unclear what coach Kyle Flood and his staff focus on during practice each week, but it certainly can’t be tackling. UCF players were slipping out of tackles on a routine basis and in several key situations.
On one occasion in the second quarter, Bortles broke three tackles in the pocket, scrambled right and found Rannell Hall for a 14-yard reception and a first down. Just before the half, Bortles busted a tackle at the goal line and plunged into the end zone for his one rushing score of the night. A similar scene took place early in the final period when tailback William Stanback spun off a near-certain tackle for a one-yard touchdown run.
At one point in 2012, Rutgers was 7-0 and had climbed to No. 15 in the AP poll. Now this program sits at 5-5 without much sign of progress as it prepares to enter the Big Ten next summer.
• Stayin’ out front: The Knights did what was necessary to remain in the driver’s seat for the AAC title. UCF is now 9-1 overall and 6-0 in conference play. That’s one game ahead of Louisville and Cincinnati for the league lead — the Knights beat Louisville 38-35 on Oct. 18, and they don’t play the Bearcats this season.
UCF is currently perched at No. 18 in the BCS standings. With a win in one of its final two games (vs. South Florida, at SMU), the Knights will clinch the American’s automatic BCS berth.