UCF's Blake Bortles takes on Rutgers' struggling defense


UCF junior quarterback Blake Bortles has put up good numbers against some good pass defense this season. Thursday night, he'll go against one of the worst pass defenses in the nation.

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Bortles threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns against Penn State, 358 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina, and 250 yards and two TDs against Louisville. He also torched UConn and Temple for four TDs each. In all, he has thrown for 2,484 yards and 19 touchdowns on a team that runs the ball 54 percent of the time.

Bortles (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) has to be salivating at the thought of throwing the ball against Rutgers, which is 122nd in the nation in pass defense, surrendering 327.9 yards per game, and has allowed 28 TD passes. In addition, foes are completing 64.1 percent of their passes against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have allowed 43 passes of at least 20 yards, which is tied for sixth-most in the nation, cfbstats.com shows.

Understandably, Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood said he is worried about Bortles.

"He's a big, strong quarterback," Flood told reporters Sunday. "He has got an excellent arm. Another quarterback who completes the ball at a very high rate [68.1 percent]. He's a complete player. He's an excellent player."

Rutgers has allowed four 400-yard passing games this season, including twice in the past three games. In those four games, opposing quarterbacks have tossed 21 TD passes. What should really scare Flood is that Bortles is more talented than three of the four quarterbacks who have reached the 400-yard plateau -- Cincinnati's Brendon Kay, SMU's Garrett Gilbert and Houston's John O'Korn. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is the other quarterback to throw for 400.

Bortles said in late September that leaving early for the NFL wasn't "even entering my mind." Since then, he has climbed up draft boards, but he hasn't commented again on the NFL. Bortles has excellent size, a strong arm and excellent mobility; he isn't afraid to leave the pocket and run. One area in which he has grown this season is keeping a play alive longer by moving around in the pocket rather than tucking it and running.

Bortles has UCF (8-1) all alone in first place in the AAC, which means the Knights are in good shape to earn the league's automatic BCS bid. UCF's other two remaining games are against USF and SMU.

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

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