Beef 'O' Brady's Analysis: UCF 38, Ball St 17
Posted Dec 22, 2012

The instant analysis and reaction to the 2012 Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl

UCF took control early and never let go, with Blake Bortles throwing two touchdown passes and running for a six-yard score on the way to a 38-10 lead. Latavius Murray scored three times with two short touchdown grabs and a two-yard run in the first half, while J.J. Worton caught a seven-yard touchdown pass late in the third. Ball State kept pushing with Keith Wenning hitting Willie Snead on scoring plays from seven and 16 yards out, but the Knights had all the points they'd need with 5:50 to go in the first half.

UCF: QB Blake Bortels completed 22-of-33 passes for 272 yards and three scores with a pick, and he ran nine times for 80 yards and a score. … RB Latavius Murray ran 21 times for 71 yards and a score, and he caught six passes for 33 yards and two touchdowns. … UCF held on to the ball for 35:34 and converted nine of 12 third down plays. … S Kemal Ishmael made eight tackles with two broken up passes and a forced fumble. … S Clayton Geathers led the team with ten tackles.

Ball State: QB Keith Wenning completed 22-of-34 passes for 217 yards and two scores. … RB Jahwan Edwards ran 14 times for 89 yards. … LB Travis Freeman led the team with ten tackles. … Average yards per kickoff return: Ball State 20.2 – UCF 1.5

Richard Cirminiello

That's as sharp as UCF QB Blake Bortles has looked all season. His spirals were tight, and his legs and toughness caught Ball State off guard. This effort sets the stage for a breakout year in the Big East for the junior-to-be.

Only one conclusion can be drawn after watching Knights WR Rannell Hall make the Cardinals D look silly—he was underutilized this season, touching the ball just 32 times from scrimmage during the regular season.

Rough start to the postseason for the MAC. The league is already 0-2, with a number of difficult games still lurking on the bowl schedule.

It gets overlooked, but UCF head coach George O'Leary continues to do an underrated job in Orlando. He's won 60 games in eight years, while guiding the Knights from the MAC to C-USA, and from C-USA to the Big East. Long gone are the Georgia Tech days and dreams of leading Notre Dame, but he's carved out a solid niche as a UCF architect.

RB Latavius Murray will be missed by UCF in 2013. However, the offense is still flush with talented underclassmen who'll be back next fall. Murray heir apparent Storm Johnson, for instance. The former Miami transfer has an extra gear once he builds a head of steam. He'll flourish with more reps, especially if the Knights block the way they did in tonight Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

- Blake Bortles was the best player on the field by a considerable margin. His speed made Ball State's entire defense look noticeably slow by comparison. Bortles was able to shift into second gear on multiple occasions, and the Cardinals had no answers for him.

- The play of the game: After Central Florida committed an offside penalty to give Ball State another shot at a touchdown with the score 21-7 in favor of the Golden Knights, the door was open for a Cardinal comeback. An 11-yard sack, however, by UCF's Thomas Niles turned the tide. Not only did Ball State have to settle for a field goal, but the kick became a 35-yard try from the hash instead of a 24-yard boot from the middle third of the field. The kick was missed, and so – in an odd way – UCF's offside penalty led to a momentum boost for the offending team, not the opponent.

- Getting smoked on a deep ball in the final minute of a half is a worst-case scenario… exactly what every coach dreads in a bowl game. Yet, let the main memory of the 2012 Ball State Cardinals be that they overachieved under head coach Pete Lembo. Winning at Toledo and smacking Ohio showed that this program has very much recovered from the departure of Brady Hoke and the two-year disaster that was Stan Parrish in 2009 and 2010. Head high and shoulders tall, Cardinals. Don't let this bowl downer detract from your 12-game body of work over the course of three months.

- Conference USA endured an entirely wretched regular season. If this is an indication of how the bowl season goes for the league, C-USA executives will breathe a profound sigh of relief.

- Whether it's the owner and operator of Tropicana Field, the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl Committee, or any other relevant party, the inability and/or unwillingness to spend $132.67 (a made-up figure, but you get the point…) for an updated and attractive field-turf playing surface is entirely embarrassing. Individuals are expected to look good when they interview for jobs. When a bowl game shows itself to the American public, it can and should look good, too. This isn't a second-rate event; it's a fifth-rate event.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

- Boy it wasn't hard to find folks predicting a Knights win, but it was hard to find folks predicting this decisive of a win. UCF simply manhandled the Cardinals from the jump to the bus ride back to the hotel. They were bigger, stronger, faster, and simply more athletic than the team from the MAC.

- Speaking of which, the MAC is not having a healthy show of things so far this bowl season. Both Toledo and now Ball State pulled an Axl Rose and forgot to show up to the concert. It makes you even more gun-shy about the prospects of Northern Illinois putting on a rockin' show against "the spear."

- One is inclined to say that this is a great springboard game for UCF as they head off to the Big East next year. But maybe condolences are now in order instead as the Big East is, well--who knows where or what.

- What a great bounce-back game for Blake Bortles. He had a poor performance against Tulsa in the Conference USA title game, but was a man on a mission tonight, amassing 350 yards of total offense in the first person. Things look good for the Knights under center--which is where it all starts and ends these days in college football--with the kid still having two years of eligibility left.

- Take nothing away from Ball State. By all accounts and measures, this was a solid season despite getting its doors blown off in St. Petersburg tonight. Heads coach Pete Lembo has engineered a drastic improvement for a Cardinals program that was in the abyss back in 2010. He has ratcheted up the wins and quality of football each of the past two years in Muncie. Now we wait to see if he'll be the next MAC head coach to join a bigger program.

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

Central Florida's convincing win shows that there's still a huge gap in talent between Conference USA and the MAC. The Knights were simply bigger, faster, and stronger than Ball State.

Will AQ conference schools come after George O'Leary? Sure, he had the snafu with his resume at Notre Dame, but he's done an excellent job at UCF. Remember, when O'Leary started in Orlando, the Knights were just a middle-of-pack team in the MAC. Nine years and two conference championships later, his squad thrashed the third best team in the MAC.

Yes, Pete Lembo had to try the onside kick after cutting the score to 28-10. Had Ball State recovered, it would have gotten the ball back with an excellent chance to make it a two-score game.

Another reason why the onside kick made sense is because the Cardinals couldn't stop UCF QB Blake Bortels. While he wasn't a household name before tonight's action, his ability to make plays through the air and on the ground stole the show tonight. It'll be interesting to see how well Bortels does against the elite defenses of Louisville, Rutgers, and Cincinnati next season.

Ball State's Willie Sneed deserved a better fate today. The lone bright spot on the BSU offense, Sneed had seven catches for 78 yards and 2 TDs. That's a solid performance against a Central Florida defense that led Conference USA in passing defense.