Lions' defense shredded by Central Florida

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles eludes Penn State defensive end Anthony Zettel near the Lions' goal line during the third quarter.
Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles eludes Penn State defensive end Anthony Zettel near the Lions' goal line during the third quarter. (GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press)
Posted: September 16, 2013

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Penn State's defense played with a fire beneath it that grew larger every time Central Florida burned them.

The Knights galloped all over the field Saturday in their 34-31 victory Saturday against Penn State at Beaver Stadium. They ran past the Nittany Lions, they ran around the Nittany Lions, and they ran through the Nittany Lions.

They rarely ran into the Nittany Lions.

UCF quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns, converting multiple plays for big yardage. The pro-style, NFL prospect often connected with his receivers in open field, with Penn State's corners several steps behind.

"Anytime you have a quarterback like that, that's accurate, that has a strong arm, that's big and can stay out of the pocket, and he can run, it's a very difficult challenge," O'Brien said of Bortles. "He played a great game tonight and I think he's a heck of a player."

Penn State cornerbacks Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas struggled to keep up with UCF's receivers. They broke up a few plays, but consistently misidentified routes and left tackles unfinished.

"[The receivers] were pretty quick," Williams said. "They were probably the best receivers that we've scene up to this point. The quarterback did a great job throwing the ball and they did a great job catching it."

Bortles soon settled into the pocket as Penn State's front seven failed to pressure him throughout the game. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones was limited to five tackles after showing good penetration for the first two games of the season. Linebacker Mike Hull played, but he looked hampered by an injury that kept him out of the Eastern Michigan game a week ago.

UCF's offensive line gave Bortles more than enough time to let plays develop. It's the first time Penn State did not record a sack since the Lions lost to Alabama on Sept. 10, 2011.

"It definitely gets to you after a while, but at the same time, you have to knock it off and play football," Jones said.

Defensive coordinator John Butler frantically tried to inspire his anemic defense as they trotted off the field, dejected, drive after drive. He cited UCLA's 31-point comeback against Nebraska earlier Saturday afternoon. The Bruins had been down 21-10 at halftime, but won the game, 41-21.

But even after a botched UCF long snap gave the game life late in the fourth quarter, it didn't fall in Penn State's favor Saturday.

"We tried everything," Butler said. "That's one thing I know I can say, we emptied the game plan."

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