AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Blake Bortles passed for 168 yards and three touchdowns as Central Florida ruined Terry Bowden’s coaching debut at Akron, routing the mistake-prone Zips 56-14 in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.
Bowden’s much-anticipated return to major college football 19 years after the end of his Auburn tenure couldn’t have gone much worse. Akron lost three fumbles, including two inside its own 10-yard line, and also had an interception.
Bowden came to Akron after guiding North Alabama to a 29-9 record the past three seasons in Division II following 10 years as a TV analyst. Prior to that, he went 47-17-1 at Auburn, going undefeated his first year in 1993.
UCF was too much for the young Zips, building a 35-0 lead by halftime.
Akron quarterback Dalton Williams went 30 of 51 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Bortles went 13 of 16 behind center for the Knights. He connected with Rannell Hall for TDs of 18 and 56 yards, and opened the scoring with a 5-yard pass to Chris Martin.
Latavius Murray gained 108 yards with one score on 14 carries, playing little more than one quarter. He rushed for 68 yards on UCF’s opening drive of 73 yards,and Murray’s 2-yard run later made it 14-0.
Miami (FL) transfer Storm Johnson scored on runs of 2 and 3 yards, both after the Knights recovered fumbles. Knights backup Tyler Gabbert also threw a 12-yard TD pass to Rob Calabrese.
Williams had touchdown passes of 13 yards to L.T. Smith and 16 yards to Marquelo Suel in the second half for the Zips.
UCF is now 22-12 in season openers and has won seven in a row.