ORLANDO — UCF's Blake Bortles could not help but crack a smile after his third touchdown pass Thursday night, and after another dazzling play in a 38-7 season-opening victory over Akron, he had every right to grin.
Even when things were going wrong for the quarterback, they were going right.
Midway through the second quarter, the junior recovered his fumble — a pass attempt that slipped out of his hand and popped up — scrambled from defenders and tossed a 39-yard strike to receiver J.J. Worton to put the Knights up by three touchdowns.
It was that kind of night for the second-year starter.
"I got to stop doing that,'' Bortles said. "Just hands had gotten sweaty, got some rosin, dried them up, so it won't happen again. But at least we made something out of it.
"It was just one of those nights where things were rolling our way," Bortles said, smiling. "I got a few good rolls."
There were plenty of redeeming tidbits for UCF during a dominant display: a defense that limited Akron's high-powered offense to seven points, a strong performance from starting running back Storm Johnson, and some young players who looked solid in their debuts.
Bortles completed 18 of 24 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns, setting a career mark for single-game yards. His streak of consecutive attempts without an interception was extended to 198.
On UCF's first snap, Bortles was crushed by a blindside sack and fumbled. The Knights recovered, however, and on the next play, Bortles hit sophomore Breshad Perriman for a 91-yard touchdown down the right sideline. Bortles rarely missed after that.
He was 8 of 11 passing at one point in the first half, and all three incomplete passes were drops. The Knights had scoring drives of 91, 91, 75 and 80 yards in the first two quarters.
"They dropped a few; otherwise (Bortles) would have hurt us a lot more," Akron coach Terry Bowden said. "We cause a fumble on the first play of the game, and maybe if we jump on that, we can make something, but then he throws a touchdown on the next play.
"Next series, we sack him, and he gets up the next play and throws another touchdown pass. We were just fighting uphill after that.''
Bortles was sacked three times and fumbled twice. But the Knights responded to nearly every negative with a positive.
"I thought Blake stepped up," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "He has a world of talent.''
Johnson made an argument for being the unquestioned feature back. The junior transfer from Miami rushed 20 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns.