Four quarters of explosive offense led to the UCF Knights’ second ever bowl win by a much more impressive margin than the first. With a 38-17 score on the board in St. Petersburg, the Knights walked off Tropicana Field victorious over Ball State in grand style in their final game as a Conference USA team.
Quarterback Blake Bortles electrified UCF’s offense from the start, converting a crucial third down to keep the Knights’ first drive alive, and going on to pass or run for 352 of the Knights’ 494 total yards — the second most team yardage in a game this year.
Bortles was particularly prolific, averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt, 12.4 yards per pass completion, and 8.9 yards per run. The Knights as a whole averaged 6.6 yards per play on the day.
And they made things happen when it counted, converting 9 of 12 third downs, more than double the rate of Ball State.
Bortles’ big run on the third play of the game may have set the Knights’ offensive tone. After two botched run attempts that sent the Knights into negative yardage, Bortles took the ball on a third-down and 12-yard play and ran for 19 yards up the left side for the first down. Ten plays later, the Knights were in the end zone.
Meanwhile, the UCF defense went to work stuffing Ball State forcing two punts and a botched field goal in the first half while shutting down big plays. Neither team would have an offensive play that went 50 yards or more in the game. Breshad Perriman’s 45-yard reception that would cross the field and set up a UCF touchdown would be nearly twice as long as any other pass of the game. Perriman’s 90 yards ended up the most of the game by any receiver.
The win closed out the Knights’ season with one of their best records in team history at 10-4, sending them into the next season with high hopes, though a very large senior class will result in some big losses in their lineup. Next year they’ll join the Big East, which is still working through what its team lineup may be in the near future. For the Knights, who deferred NCAA punishment for recruitment violations, may not see a postseason next year.