Knights’ senior Bortles wins bowl MVP

ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Bortles started the 2011 season as the University of Central Florida’s backup quarterback behind Jeff Godfrey.

Now, just a little over a year later, Bortles is the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl MVP as he led his UCF Knights to a 38-10 win over the Ball State Cardinals on Friday, Dec. 21 at Tropicana Field in front of an announced attendance of 21,759.

“For a guy who started off as a first year quarterback and played some as a freshman redshirt, I thought he came out and really did a nice job,” said UCF head coach George O’Leary on his MVP quarterback.

“Blake basically has matured,” said O’Leary. “I think he basically took some bad plays, and made some good plays out of them.”

Bortles started the Friday, Dec. 21 bowl game going 15-20 for 182 yards passing while collecting two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in the first half as the Knights went into halftime leading  Ball State 28-7.

“Big strong kid, very elusive, able to take the shot and stay on his feet,” said Ball State head coach Pete Lembo on Bortles. “Great feet in the pocket and great vision down the field, and once he escaped he was able to make some plays down the field.”

Bortles finished the game 22-33 passing for 272 yards and three passing touchdowns, which tied a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl record set by University of South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe back in 2008 against Memphis.

“I thought Blake Bortles played extremely well with his feet and his arm,” said O’Leary on his bowl game MVP. “He made quick decisions. I thought that was the difference in the game offensively.”

He also had a six yard touchdown run with 5:50 remaining in the first half, which brought his total touchdowns for the season to 33.

In the third quarter Bortles hit yet another milestone when he surpassed 3,000 yards passing for the season, becoming the first Knight to accomplish the feat since 2002.

“You can’t get to where you want to be by just practicing,” said Bortles. “You have to go out there and see what’s going on in the game and get some game experience.”

Bortles also rushed for 80 yard on nine carries for the Knights, surpassing running back Latavius Murray in rushing yards for the game.

Bortles was a redshirt sophomore this season, meaning he has two more years of eligibility for the Knights.