July 22, 2018 | ° F

Better Knights

Bortles throws for one, runs for another as No. 17 UCF drops Rutgers to .500, goes for 452 yards against RU

Photo by Noah Whittenburg |

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles attempts to escape the Rutgers football team’s pass rush during the Scarlet Knights’ 41-17 loss last night at UCF. Bortles passed for 335 yards on 21 attempts and rushed for a touchdown against the Knights, who fell to 2-4 in the American Athletic Conference.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Junior linebacker Kevin Snyder faced the ground on his hands and knees after Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles beat him for a touchdown.

The Rutgers football team’s defense has a knack for making good quarterbacks look like Heisman candidates this season. Bortles pounded the Scarlet Knights for 335 passing yards and 61 more on the ground in UCF’s 41-17 victory last night in Orlando.

Rutgers’ defensive struggles are old news, but the Knights barely held the ball and junior quarterback Gary Nova completed just 11-of-34 passes.

That made this loss a bit different from other Rutgers (5-5, 2-4) defeats this season.

Photo: Noah Whittenburg

Storm Johnson attempts to score as he busts down the sideline last night against Rutgers. He finished with 75 yards and two scores.

Nova threw to tan jerseys so often, he might need colorblindness testing. Then head coach Kyle Flood inserted senior quarterback Chas Dodd late in the fourth quarter.

Because of Nova’s play, Flood did not commit to Nova as the Knights’ starter for their next game against Connecticut.

“I think we’ll make that decision tomorrow after we look at the film and evaluate him on the field,” Flood said postgame of if a quarterback competition will occur. “I don’t think Gary was very accurate today. I think he’ll feel the same way when he looks at the film. I think he had some throws that he has made with better location this season.”

Rutgers’ first drive ended in familiar fashion, as strong safety Clayton Geathers made what was, perhaps miraculously, Nova’s only interception.

Nova ended the first half with a three and out that included consecutive plays where the ball went to UCF (9-1, 6-0) defenders’ hands but fell to the ground.

Bortles owned the night, with just nine of his 31 pass attempts falling incomplete.

Rutgers missed plenty of tackles on speedy receivers and Bortles as he moved around the pocket, which is a familiar struggle against spread offenses.

Bortles made big plays at the right time, including at 48-yard completion to wide receiver Breshad Perriman at Rutgers’ 31-yard line. Perriman beat junior cornerback Gareef Glashen on the play.

He also flushed the clock on several drives, including UCF’s first one to begin the second half. UCF at least got a 32-yard field goal on a 15-play, eight-minute drive with 6:22 left in the third.

Going back to Fresno State scoring 55 against Rutgers in the Knights’ season opener, redshirt freshman Steve Longa still notices Rutgers’ progress in guarding spreads.

“Teams like Fresno, they ran the bubble screen a lot,” Longa said. “That’s something we didn’t guard very well against them, but now teams don’t show that a lot because that’s something we worked at. The defense is getting better even though we’re still struggling.”

The tackling problems are still there.

UCF running back William Stanback blew freshman cornerback Anthony Cioffi to the ground by lowering his shoulder into Cioffi’s chest in one-on-one coverage. The 205-pounder’s hit on Cioffi was so powerful, it made it onto last nights’ Sportcenter’s “Top 10”.

That led to UCF’s third unanswered touchdown in three drives.

The offense helped little as Nova went 5-for-16 in the half, but his 6-for-18 second half showed no signs of progress after halftime.

One word commonly escaped Nova’s lips after the last two games.

“We just didn’t execute,” Nova said. “It’s just unfortunate, but we didn’t execute. We didn’t execute.”

The Knights have two more games to solve the lack of execution, with one more victory necessary for a bowl berth.

But Flood, Nova and the coaching staff have no definitive answer for what Rutgers lacks.

“I am not concerned because I watch how this team plays until the end of the game,” Flood said of Rutgers’ demeanor. “Even through that last kickoff, you see guys playing with tremendous effort and I don’t see a team that’s discouraged.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JoshBakan. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

By Josh Bakan

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