ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — UCF coach George O'Leary promised he wouldn't shy away from letting quarterback Blake Bortles throw the ball around more this season.

In his first outing of the year, the Knights second-year starter didn't disappoint.

Bortles had three touchdown passes and threw for a career-high 314 yards as UCF blew past Akron 38-7 on Thursday night.

Storm Johnson added 99 yards rushing and two scores as the Knights won their eighth consecutive season-opener and second straight over the Zips.

It was the first 300-yard passing game of Bortles' career and the first by a Knights' quarterback since 2009.

"For a first game, it was a good performance," Bortles said. "We were a little sloppy with some things, we need to tighten up some stuff, some things I definitely need to be better at, but I felt good."

Though Bortles garnered most of the attention after the victory, O'Leary said he was pleased the unit's play in all phases.

"I think we showed we have the backs and the line to move the chains," O'Leary said. "Whether it's run or pass I think we have the offensive players who can make big plays."

Akron dropped its 10th straight game, dating back to last season.

The Zips put pressure on Bortles, but never got traction on offense and had a pair of turnovers. Akron also struggled on third down in the first half (2 of 6) and failed to keep UCF's secondary off balance despite its hurry-up attack.

Akron coach Terry Bowden said the missed opportunities Thursday were reminiscent of those that followed them in last year's 1-11 finish.

"We cause a fumble on the first play of the game and maybe if we jump on that we can make something, but then (Bortles) throws a touchdown on the next play," Bowden said. "Next series, we sack him and he gets up the next play and throws another touchdown pass. We were just fighting uphill after that.

"They were the better team and they just took it to us."

Indeed, just about everything went right for the Knights in their first outing of the season.

Bortles found three different receivers for scores in a first half that saw the Knights punt on only two of their six possessions.

He survived a near disaster when he was stripped as he drew his arm back to throw on the game's opening play. He fell on the ball, though, and on the next snap Bortles' hit a streaking Breshad Perriman in the middle of the field with his first actual pass of the night.

"That's the second time that happened," Bortles said of the fumble followed by the touchdown pass. "Hand was getting sweaty and it slipped out. We made something good out of it."

Akron had its best drive of the half on its first possession, but it ended with a punt right after the Zips past midfield.

UCF quickly went back to work as Bortles led the Knights on a 12-play, 91-yard drive that was capped with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Rannell Hall. The drive also featured a 20-yard scramble by Bortles, mixed in with several elusive runs by Johnson.

The Knights' lead grew to three touchdowns early in the second quarter on another long Bortles' pass, this time a 39-yard strike J.J. Worton, which made it 21-0. Bortles managed to hit Worton in stride despite being on the run and throwing across his body.

The Zips' offense tried to keep up its fast-paced no-huddle attack throughout the half, but managed just 83 total yards in the opening 30 minutes, including one turnover. The handful of drives that did show some traction were all stunted on third down.

Their defense did at times get some pressure on Bortles — producing three sacks — but still gave up 310 yards to the Knights.

Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl was 16 of 28 for 98 yards and an interception in his first-career start.

The Zips' lone score came late in the game with junior backup Nick Hirschman under center.

The Knights are on the road next at Florida International. Akron opens its home schedule against James Madison.

___

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower.