The junior, who Penn State coach Bill O’Brien referred to as a pro prospect earlier this week, picked apart the Lions’ secondary from the start, leading the Knights’ 13-play, 89-yard drive with ease to begin the game.
Lions’ defensive coordinator John Butler said Bortles did a great job of neutralizing the Lions’ pass rush — which amassed zero sacks — by not giving the defensive line much time to finish their rushing patterns.
“Quick decision making,” Butler said of Bortles’ best trait.
“He was making his decision about where he wanted to throw the ball quickly. He threw it, and the receivers made plays.”
The junior quarterback also found ways to hurt the Lions with the deep ball, targeting an inexperienced secondary group that often came up short in coverage.
With the Knights leading 21-10 in the middle of the third quarter, Bortles felt the pressure on 2nd-and-10 and lofted a high-arching pass right into Josh Reese’s outstretched arms for the touchdown to give the Knights an 18-point lead.
This was one of many instances when Bortles bought time in the pocket before fitting a deep pass into a small area, which is exactly what O'Brien said makes defending him such a difficult task.
“Any time you have a quarterback like that with a strong arm, who’s big and can stand in the pocket and can run, it’s a very difficult challenge,” O’Brien said. “He played a great game tonight. Credit to him. I think he’s a heck of a player.”
Even when Penn State clawed back into the game late in the second half, bringing bursts of energy back into the Beaver Stadium crowd, Bortles answered.