UCF-PSU highlights, lowlights
UNIVERSITY PARK – Following are the highlights and lowlights from Penn State’s 34-31 loss to Central Florida on Saturday night at Beaver Stadium:
Play of the game: Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles tossed a perfect 5-yard touchdown to J.J. Worton in the left corner of the end zone – where only Worton could catch it – to give UCF a 21-7 lead with 8:51 left in the first half. The Nittany Lions never totally recovered.
Offensive player of the game: Bortles, an NFL prospect, completed 20-of-27 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once and was not sacked.
Defensive player of the game: UCF middle linebacker Terrance Plummer recorded a game-high 11 tackles and jarred loose a key late fumble.
Most telling statistic: Of their first six possessions, the Knights scored four touchdowns.
Hidden statistic: UCF owned fourth-quarter time of possession, 10:11-4:49.
Best run: After the Lions tied the game 7-7, Central Florida’s Storm Johnson exploded around the right edge and raced 58 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to put the Knights back up 14-7.
Best pass: On third-and-9 from the PSU, Bortles stepped up in the pocket to avoid a rush and then found Jeff Godfrey for 28 yards up the left sideline, setting up UCF’s game-opening touchdown and providing a definite tone for the evening.
Worst pass: Hate to single out a punt snapper, but UCF was in charge until its long snapper, Scott Teal, launched a ball high over the head of punter Caleb Houston with the Knights up 34-24 and four minutes remaining. The huge loss allowed PSU a short field, and the Lions pulled within 34-31 with 2:51 left.
Best catch: Allen Robinson’s 5-yard touchdown pass on a fade from Christian Hackenberg, with 2:51 left, pulled the Lions within 34-31.
Catch it, will ya: It was an excellent day for both sets of receivers with no glaring drops.
Hold it, won’t ya: Zach Zwinak’s fumble with 5:43 remaining let the air out of the crowd and the Lions’ comeback bid.
Best move/worst tackle: UCF’s Josh Reese took a screen with 8:46 left in the third quarter and eluded Malcolm Willis and Jordan Lucas en route to a 25-yard touchdown and a 28-10 lead.
Best tackle: On third-and-goal from the PSU 1 late in the third quarter, Lion defensive tackle DaQuan Jones stuffed a quarterback sneak to help force a field goal and kept Penn State in the game.
Best hit: UCF safety Clayton Geathers separated Gino Lewis from a completion in the second quarter.
Best kick: Sam Ficken’s 47-yard field goal, his 15th straight dating back to last season, pulled Penn State within 21-10 in the second quarter.
Worst kick: Punting from the 50 with a chance to put Central Florida deep, Alex Butterworth only managed a 32-yarder to the UCF 18.
Best call: Let’s go to the defense – UCF’s defense. With the Lions facing third-and-7 in the third quarter from midfield, the Knights sent a blitz at Hackenburg, forcing a hurry and an incompletion.
Worst call: Hard to nitpick George O’Leary, but the decision to pass (incomplete), up 34-24 with 3:48 left, missed a chance to run the clock or force Penn State into its last timeout.
Worst penalty: Garry Gilliam hurt a drive when he was hit with a hold (for the second straight week) after a well-executed screen to Robinson gained 15 yards to the UCF 32 in the second quarter.
Best effort: In addition to not allowing a sack, UCF’s offensive line escorted a ground game that produced 219 yards on 38 cracks – a fat 5.8 per-carry average.
Unsung hero: UCF’s Shawn Moffitt was cool on the road, nailing both of his field goals (22 and 36), which wound up being the margin of victory.