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Blake Bortles comes up big as UCF upends Penn State

Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY Sports
QB Blake Bortles and the UCF offense put up 507 yards in a big win over Penn State on Saturday.

Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg is going to be a good -- and very likely a top-flight -- quarterback. But UCF junior Blake Bortles already is a top-flight quarterback, and he led the Knights past Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions 34-31 Saturday.

Bortles went 20 of 27 (74.1 percent completion rate) for 288 yards and three TDs and generally remained calm and collected throughout as the Knights pulled the minor upset.

Bortles completed four passes of at least 26 yards and generally picked apart a talented Penn State secondary.

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If you haven't seen Bortles, think of Florida's Jeff Driskel -- but a Driskel who is comfortable in the pocket and competent as a passer. Bortles is 6-feet-4 and 230 pounds (same height but seven pounds lighter than Driskel). He is a good runner, with both toughness and quickness (like Driskel). Like Driskel, Bortles is from the Orlando suburb of Oviedo (pronounced Oh-vee-dough). Like Driskel, Bortles has a strong arm. But unlike Driskel, Bortles has a nice pocket presence, possesses a nice touch and is able to throw short and deep with equal aplomb. In addition, unlike Florida's fans, UCF's fans don't hold their breath when Bortles drops back to pass.

Saturday night, Bortles and UCF rang up 507 yards of total offense, the most against the Nittany Lions since Case Keenum and Houston put up 600 in the TicketCity Bowl following the 2011 season.

Bortles was helped by a rushing attack that gained 219 yards; some of those came on nice option pitches from Bortles. Junior tailback Storm Johnson ran for 116 yards, and though he's not known as a burner, he ran away from Penn State defenders a few times. True freshman backup William Stanback added 36 yards on nine carries, and showed a physical presence.

UCF is off next week, then welcomes in South Carolina on Sept. 28 for what suddenly is an intriguing matchup. That looks to be the toughest remaining game on UCF's schedule.

Yes, UCF is in the AAC and must play Louisville, and the Knights appear to be the biggest remaining impediment between Louisville and an unbeaten season. But if Bortles is as hot as he was Saturday and if Johnson runs that well again, UCF can beat Louisville.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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