GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Central Florida Knights spoke this week about their hunt for national respect. On Wednesday night, UCF earned respect in front of an announced 65,172.
The Knights (12-1, 8-0) defeated Baylor (11-2, 8-1) 52-42 in a record-setting Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Wednesday night. The 94 points were the most ever in a Fiesta Bowl. It was also the most points UCF has scored against a ranked opponent.
"I'm just excited for this university. This is big," UCF head coach George O'Leary said.
BOX SCORE: No. 15 UCF 52, No. 5 Baylor 42
After seeing its 14-0 first-quarter lead trimmed to just a point, and turning the ball over on three straight snaps, UCF appeared to be self-destructing on its biggest stage in program history.
But UCF put the ball into the hands of junior Blake Bortles and time and time again Bortles delivered with both his arm and his legs.
Bortles, who was named the offensive player of the game, connected on 20-of-31 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. The junior amassed a career high 93 rushing yards and one touchdown.
ROSE BOWL: Michigan State tops Stanford
UCF was able to maintain balance behind a big game from Storm Johnson. Johnson gave the Knights a two-score advantage with just more than 10 minutes remaining in the game when he broke free for a 40-yard touchdown.
Johnson rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns on the night. Johnson scored the first two touchdowns of the game, and put the game out of reach with a 40-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
As a team the Knights rushed for 254 yards which allowed them to control the ball for 29:21.
On the game's opening possession, the UCF offense set the tone.
The Knights marched down the field relying on the legs of Johnson and Bortles to start the game. The two juniors combined for 76 yards rushing and each tallied a carry longer than 20 yards. The drive culminated with an 11-yard touchdown by Johnson.
"UCF played an outstanding game," Baylor head coach Art Briles said. "They came out hot and fast early and we never really recovered."
Without its defensive coordinator, UCF was able hold Baylor below its season average of 53 points per game. Early on the Knights were able to get pressure on Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty with just its defensive line. Sophomore defensive end had a first quarter sack to end a Baylor drive.
Brandon Alexander intercepted Petty in the endzone in the second quarter.
Petty completed 30-of-47 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns.
Bortles found Rannell Hall for two second quarter touchdowns on screen passes to give the Knights an 8-point half time lead. Hall caught four passes for 113 yards.
UCF head coach George O'Leary mentioned that penalties would play a major role when his team took the field.
He was proven correct as Baylor was penalized 17 times for 135 yards. Baylor was the second most penalized team in the nation coming into the game and had been penalized for the most yards in the nation.
On more than one occasion a third down defensive penalty by Baylor extended a UCF drive.
The Knights topped another opponent in the fourth quarter, something they have made a habit of this year.
UCF has won six games because of late scores in the fourth quarter and has won seven games by a combined 28 points.
UCF earned its way to the Fiesta Bowl by winning a program-record 11 games in 2013. Despite a three-point loss to South Carolina early in the season, UCF was able to recover and win 8 straight games, and going undefeated within the American Athletic Conference.
The Knights represented the American in the conferences automatic-qualifying bid into a BCS bowl game.
"I'm just so proud of my team, University of Central Florida - I think the whole world knows us now," said UCF linebacker Terrance Plummer, who was named the defensive player of the game.
Baylor, the Big 12 champion, excelled for much of the season due to its top ranked scoring offense. Averaging over 53 points per game, Baylor has all scored 70 or more points four times.
Ryan Gillespie also writes for Florida Today.
PHOTOS: CENTRAL FLORIDA BEATS BAYLOR IN FIESTA BOWL