Big 1st half lifts No. 21 UCF past UConn 62-17
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The first time UCF entered the national rankings — back in 2010 — it was gone just one game later.
If quarterback Blake Bortles and the Knights keep playing like they did Saturday, they don’t figure to be dropping out of the Top 25 anytime soon.
Bortles threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as No. 21 UCF routed winless Connecticut 62-17 on Saturday.
The junior completed his first eight passes of the game and ended his day early in the third quarter, connecting on 20 of 24 passes for 286 yards. The Knights (6-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) scored on their first nine possessions of the game, demoralizing a Huskies’ team that has lost eight straight dating to last season.
The Knights upset Louisville last week and entered the polls for the first time their one-week appearance in 2010. That year the Knights lost the next game and immediately dropped out.
There was no stumble this time.
“We wanted to come out and get a big win to keep the momentum going,” said junior J.J. Worton, who posted a career-high 119 yards receiving Saturday and was a freshman on the 2010 team. “There is no conference championship for us so every game is like a championship game and play like that. We wanted to get a lead and make sure we had a sure win. We didn’t want to let off the gas.”
UCF is just one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in the American along with Houston, but remains the favorite to claim the league’s BCS berth.
“We talked about continuing (energy from Louisville game) and having no lapses, and we did that today,” Bortles said. “We were definitely in sync as a unit today. We move the ball well down the field and had some positive outcomes. ... When things you’re doing are working it’s something you feel and as a unit we were feeling that today and executed what we planned on doing.”
UConn (0-7, 0-3) was anemic on offense and helped dig its own hole early, thanks to two first-half interceptions by freshman quarterback Tim Boyle. A Huskies’ fumble in the second-half set up another UCF score.
“The elements are there for us, but it’s been hard for us to put it together,” UConn interim coach T.J. Weist said. “That’s a solid football team. They came out on offense and used all their weapons. You can see everything went right for them because they executed. They took advantage of turnovers. .They did the things we would like to have done.”
UCF had its way offensively in the first half as it hurried to a 45-10 lead.
The Knights scored on all seven of their possessions of the half, compiling 338 yards on offense.
Bortles continued to show the poise he displayed in the Louisville comeback win, spreading the ball around to seven receivers on Saturday.
The Knights’ defense also carried over its momentum from that game, holding the Huskies to 90 yards in the first half.
UConn needed a UCF special teams’ miscue to score its lone touchdown of the opening 30 minutes.
The Huskies started the second quarter with a three-and-out and punted, but after Worton lost the kick in the sun, teammate Stanley Sylverain made contact with the ball after it had bounced on the turf.
UConn recovered, and then benefited from a roughing the passer call on the Knights to set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Lyle McCombs that made it 21-10.
It was one of the few hiccups for the Knights all day, though.
Trailing 24-10 and facing a third-and-long inside his own 40, Boyle had a pass tipped by UCF linebacker Terrance Plummer and it was picked off by Troy Gray.
Knights receiver Rannell Hall then bulled his way over the goal line on a run from 17 yards out three plays later.
UCF got the ball to open the game and needed just seven plays and a little over 2 minutes to take a 7-0 lead. Storm Johnson carried three times in the 75-yard drive, capping it with a 10-yard touchdown run.
The Huskies’ started from the 10 on their first possession of the day and quickly got into UCF territory on a 57-yard run by McCombs. The drive moved inside UCF’s 25, but stalled there and they settled for a 40-yard field goal by Chad Christen.
UCF took just 2:40 to go up 14-3, this time with Bortles using a 20-yard pass to Breshad Perriman to set up his own 10-yard scoring run.
Knights coach George O’Leary said as good as the performance was overall, the expectation level only increases going forward.
“I challenged the kids all week to stay hungry and get after the game,” he said. “Today was one, now you have five left. Each week you have to treat like a championship game.”
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower