Bortles threw first-half TD passes of 7 and 5 yards to Latavius Murray, who also scored on a 2-yard run to help the Knights (10-4) build a 21-point halftime lead and coast to victory in their final game as a member of Conference USA.
Bortles had a 6-yard TD run and threw for 272 yards to become UCF's first 3,000-yard passer since 2002. He also led the Knights in rushing with a career-best 80 yards on nine carries.
Ball State (9-4) was hoping to finish with at least 10 wins for the third time in school history, however its high-powered offense sputtered while being held to a season-low point total. Keith Wenning threw a 7-yard TD pass to Willie Snead early in the second quarter, but the Cardinals didn't get into end zone again until Snead scored on a 16-yard reception with 5 minutes remaining.
Bortles completed 22 of 33 passes without an interception, and his three TD passes were a career-best and tied the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl record. Wenning was 22 of 34 for 217 yards and two TDs for Ball State, which had a six-game winning streak snapped before an announced crowd of 21,759.
UCF, which will move into the Big East next season, rebounded from an overtime loss in the Conference USA title game to finish with double-digit victories for the third time since stepping up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Knights' loss to Tulsa in the Conference USA title game kept them close to home for the postseason. Instead of heading to the Liberty Bowl for the second time in three years, coach George O'Leary and his players settled for a 100-mile trek west from Orlando to Tropicana Field, the home of major league baseball's Tampa Bay Rays.
O'Leary also brought his team to St. Petersburg in 2009, losing to Rutgers by three touchdowns. Friday night's victory improved the 66-year-old coach's record to 4-5 in bowl games, including a 2-3 mark with UCF.
UCF 38, Ball St. 17
Ball St. 0 7 3 7--17
UCF 13 15 7 3--38
UCF -- Murray 7 pass from Bortles (Giovanetti kick), 7:27.
UCF -- Murray 2 run (kick failed), 3:59.
BSU -- Snead 7 pass from Wenning (Schott kick), 10:41.
UCF -- Bortles 6 run (Floyd pass from Bortles), 5:50.
UCF -- Murray 5 pass from Bortles (Moffitt kick), :05.
BSU -- FG Schott 45, 7:54.
UCF -- Worton 7 pass from Bortles (Moffitt kick), 4:23.
UCF -- FG Moffitt 25, 10:12.
BSU -- Snead 16 pass from Wenning (Schott kick), 5:26.
A -- 21,759.
First downs 23 33
Rushes-yards 24-71 42-222
Passing 217 272
Comp-Att-Int 22-35-0 22-33-0
Return Yards 0 2
Punts-Avg. 3-41.7 1-32.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-53 8-71
Time of Possession 24:21 35:39
PASSING -- Ball St., Wenning 22-34-0-217, K.Page 0-1-0-0. UCF, Bortles 22-33-0-272.
RECEIVING -- Ball St., Snead 7-78, Fakes 6-57, Mabon 3-30, C.Ryan 2-26, Banks 1-15, Curry 1-13, Edwards 1-0, O'Brien 1-(minus 2). UCF, Murray 6-33, Perriman 5-90, Hall 4-74, Worton 3-32, Godfrey 3-29, Tukes 1-14.