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UCF outscores Baylor in Fiesta Bowl shootout

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Baylor found itself in an awkward position all week at the Fiesta Bowl as Bears coach Art Briles dodged rumors that he is a candidate to replace Mack Brown at Texas.

Fifteenth-ranked Central Florida made sure the sixth-ranked Bears stayed uncomfortable on the field Wednesday night.

The Knights surged to a two-touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter and held off Baylor 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

UCF quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 301 yards, rushed for 93 and accounted for four touchdowns to upstage Baylor counterpart Bryce Petty.

"He made big plays," UCF coach George O'Leary said of Bortles. "He made plays with his legs and found a way to make some plays that could've been bad plays into good ones."

After Baylor tied the game 28-28 early in the third quarter, Bortles directed a nine-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Breshad Perriman.

Three plays into the fourth quarter, Bortles ran 15 yards for a touchdown to re-establish the Knights' 14-point advantage.

Bortles looked back during the touchdown run and was surprised to find he was by himself.

"We knew it was there," Bortles said. "The safety came down and I bounced out, and I guess he fell down. I looked back and didn't see him. Our guys just did a great job of blocking that play up."

Bortles completed 20 of 31 passes and threw two interceptions.

UCF (12-1) forced Baylor into an unfamiliar position. The Bears (11-2) trailed only once in the second half previously this season, and they lost that game at Oklahoma State. Petty kept firing, and he finished 30-for-47 for 356 passing yards with two touchdown passes and one interception.

However, Baylor was held back by 17 penalties for 135 yards.

"I'm disappointed in myself," Briles said. "I don't think I did a good job of preparing our team. I can't remember the last time we had this many penalties."

UCF running back Storm Johnson helped close out Baylor with a 40-yard touchdown run with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter. Johnson rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns on 20 attempts.

Johnson put the Knights in command from the start, capping the first two drives with touchdown runs.

"The line did an awesome job of opening holes and creating space for me to run through," Johnson said.

By defeating Baylor, UCF moved to 2-0 this season against teams ranked in the top 10. The Knights also beat then-No. 8 Louisville 38-35, handing the Cardinals their only loss of the season. UCF's only loss came against then-No. 12 South Carolina.

O'Leary bristled in the postage press conference at a question regarding UCF's legitimacy as a program.

"Any time you win 12 games in a season, it's great for your program," O'Leary said. "A win like this is great. It's national exposure. It's great for the players. It's great for the school."

UCF dominated the line of scrimmage early to take a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Johnson, who rushed for 59 yards in the first quarter, scored on runs of 11 and 2 yards on the Knights' first two drives. UCF ran on 10 of 11 plays on the two marches to take the initial momentum.

Baylor climbed back by creating turnovers.

Bears cornerback Demetri Goodson intercepted a long Bortles pass at the Baylor 3 to stop one Knights drive, and linebacker Eddie Lackey set up a Baylor touchdown with an interception at the UCF 32.

Baylor needed just two plays to score after Lackey's pick. Petty hit Levi Norwood over the middle, and the wide receiver evaded the UCF secondary for a 30-yard touchdown.

Bortles made up for the two interceptions with some help from wide receiver Rannell Hall (four catches, 113 yards). Bortles connected with Hall on a short pass near the line of scrimmage at midfield, and Hall slipped a defender and outran the Baylor defense for a 50-yard touchdown.

Hall's score boosted the Knights' lead to 21-13 with 5:05 left in the first half.

Baylor kept punching back, though. Petty answered Hall's score by running for a 13-yard touchdown, accented by a flip into the end zone when UCF defensive back Jacoby Glenn hit the diving quarterback in the legs.

Bortles then led UCF on a nine-play, 83-yard touchdown drive, capped by another catch-and-run touchdown to Hall, this one going 34 yards. The extra point gave the Knights a 28-20 halftime lead.

NOTES: UCF and Baylor both began the season unranked and went on to win their respective conferences. UCF finished 8-0 in the American Athletic, while Baylor won the Big 12 with an 8-1 mark. ... Baylor has been ranked in the top 10 for eight consecutive polls, a program record. ... UCF entered on an eight-game winning streak, the longest in program history.
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