UCF 56, Akron 14
Turnovers ruined Terry Bowden’s first try at turning around
Akron’s football program.
Central Florida had four takeaways and Blake Bortles passed for
168 yards and three touchdowns as the Knights ruined Bowden’s
coaching debut at Akron, routing the mistake-prone Zips 56-14 in
the season opener for both teams Thursday night.
”Not a lot of mysteries as to why they won,” Bowden said
following his much-anticipated return to major college football 19
years after the end of his short but successful run at Auburn.
”They played better,” Bowden said. ”We would have had to be
about perfect to win, but we turned the ball over.”
Akron lost three fumbles, including two inside its own 10-yard
line, and also had an interception.
”Getting those turnovers was huge,” Knights coach George
O’Leary said after UCF’s seventh straight season-opening win.
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.
The energetic Bowden said it was a day of anxiety and, though
the young Zips lost badly, he was proud of their tenacity.
”No matter what happened, it was the start of a push to turn
this program around,” Bowden said.
Akron, 1-11 in each of the past two years, couldn’t keep up with
the bigger and stronger Knights, who built a 35-0 halftime
Bortles went 13 of 16, connecting with Rannell Hall for TDs of
18 and 56 yards, and opening the scoring with a 5-yard pass to
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
”(Murray) had a sore shoulder, and we wanted to see some other
backs, too,” O’Leary said of his running back’s limited time.
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.
O’Leary said he wanted to throw the ball even more and will try
to put in a few more passing plays for the Knights’ second game
against Ohio State.
”We look forward to the opportunity,” he said. ”We’ll have to
play our ‘A’ game.”
Akron quarterback Dalton Williams went 30 of 51 for 255 yards.
He threw touchdown passes of 13 yards to L.T. Smith and 16 yards to
Marquelo Suel in the second half.
Akron ran 81 plays under Bowden’s spread offense, which
surprised even Williams.
”Eighty-one … ” he said. ”That shows we are playing at a
high tempo and that we have bought into coach Bowden’s
Bowden knows it won’t be easy. Akron hasn’t had a winning season
since going 7-6 in 2005.
”We’re going to win some and we’re going to get thumped some,”
he said. ”But I felt some excitement from the fans. I told them to
buy season tickets. That way, they’ll see them all because we’re
going to get better.”