Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Blake Bortles threw for 269 yards and a touchdown and ran for 62 yards and another score, as UCF blew past East Carolina, 40-20, at Bright House Networks Stadium.
Storm Johnson ran for 53 yards and reached the end zone, while Rannell Hall hauled in three passes for 68 yards for UCF (3-2, 1-0 C-USA), which has alternated wins and losses in its first five teams. The high-powered offense entered the game averaging 30.3 points per game and boosted that on Thursday night.
Shane Carden racked up 298 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, with one of Conference USA's best receivers, Justin Hardy, catching five passes for 119 yards and a score. Vintavious Cooper fought hard for his 58 yards and a touchdown, as like UCF, East Carolina (3-3, 2-1) has alternated wins and losses this season.
The Pirates marched right down the field, reaching the end zone on a 13-play, 75-yard march that included a 4th-and-1 conversion and finished with Carden's 7-yard rushing score.
The quarterback showed off his passing skills following a UCF punt, launching a perfect spiral to Hardy, who turned it into a 76-yard quick strike touchdown and a 2-score lead.
The 14-point lead was short-lived as the first-quarter fireworks continued. Quincy McDuffie took the ensuing kickoff and raced 99 yards for a touchdown. The Knights continued the momentum stretching into the second quarter, marching a short field to tie the game.
J.J. Worton's 32-yard punt return set up shop in Pirates territory, and Johnson's 2-yard plunge on third down kept the drive alive on the doorstep of the Pirates' 10-yard line. The running back needed three more tries, but he found the end zone from four yards out to square the contest at 14-14.
Brandon Alexander's interception gave UCF another short field, and it converted with Shawn Moffitt's 22-yard chip shot to take the lead. Moffitt's 23-yard field goal finished off a much longer drive later in the period, a 9- play, 87-yard march that included a 27-yard pass to Hall and a 33-yard jaunt by the quarterback Bortles.
East Carolina stopped the 20 unanswered points with Warren Harvey's 27-yard field goal as the half expired.
UCF regained a six-point lead on the second half's first possession. Bortles found his go-to guy Hall again, this time for 23 yards, and connected with Jeff Godfrey on a 19-yard pass. The drive stalled, but Moffitt's 36-yard field goal made the score 23-17.
East Carolina used a 60-yard pass play from Carden to Jabril Solomon to set up Harvey's 31-yard field goal to again make it a three-point game, but that is as close as the Pirates got.
The Knights then went on a pair of touchdown drives to open some breathing room. The first was a 5-play quick hitter capped by McDuffie's 64-yard touchdown reception. The second was a lengthy 12-play, 70-yard time- killer that included an early third-down conversion and a fourth-down, 2-yard scramble by the quarterback, who made the marker with one yard to spare.
The signal-caller again used his legs to find the end zone, plunging in from a yard out for a 37-20 game.
Moffitt's 49-yard field goal capped the scoring.