Published November 30, 2013
| Sports Network
Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Blake Bortles threw a go-ahead 52-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter, and Jordan Ozerities came up with a game-sealing interception as 17th-ranked UCF upended a pesky South Florida team, 23-20, to claim a share of the American Athletic Conference championship.
The Knights (10-1, 7-0 AAC), winners of seven in a row, have just one conference game left, next Saturday at SMU. With a win, UCF will clinch the AAC automatic bid to a BCS Bowl game.
Bortles completed 17-of-26 passes for 219 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions, and the Knights overcame several turnovers to avoid the upset.
"Nothing bothers me more than turnovers," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "I thought they were sloppy and irresponsible. I thought our offensive line didn't sustain blocks and did a poor job pass protecting. Blake Bortles held on to the ball too long. You just can't do that; you need to get rid of the ball. Overall I thought the guys that played the best were the running back as far as making some hay out of plays. I just didn't think between the quarterback and the offensive line we did very much today."
Mike White connected on 15-of-34 throws for 211 yards, but his costly interception with 1:20 left sealed the outcome for the Bulls (2-9, 2-5), who have lost five in a row.
South Florida had a chance to expand a 20-16 lead, but Marvin Kloss pushed a 51-yard field goal attempt wide right with 5:56 remaining. Three plays later, Bortles pump-faked and Perriman got behind a defender and caught the long pass in stride before racing to the end zone.
Facing a 3rd-and-6 from the UCF 39, White threw a pass to the left side of the field. Ozerities stepped in front of Chris Dunkley to make the interception and seal the win, the first for UCF in five meetings with the Bulls.
UCF's first two drives resulted in Storm Johnson fumbles. Kloss converted a 46-yard field goal early on, but Shawn Moffitt split the uprights from 27 yards out late in the first.
Kloss' 42-yard kick gave the Bulls the lead in the second, and the Bulls picked off Bortles on the next possession. UCF, though, could not convert as the Bulls fumbled at the 8-yard line.
Bortles found Justin Tukes for an 8-yard score with 1:22 left in the half, and Moffitt kicked a 24-yard field goal with six seconds remaining for a 13-6 margin.
Chris Dunkley scored on 13-yard run with 5:43 left in the third to tie the game, but UCF went back on top less than two minutes later on Moffitt's 39- yard field goal. The Knights got into position for the kick thanks to Rannell Hall's 69-yard kickoff return.
The Bulls went back on top, 20-16, following Marcus Shaw's 1-yard TD run 43 seconds into the final quarter.
Kloss missed his final field goal attempt shortly after Bortles was intercepted by Nate Godwin.
Shaw had 67 yards on 21 carries ... Andre Davis had seven catches for 87 yards for the Bulls ... USF accumulated 11 penalties for 89 yards.