No. 12 UCF completes undefeated season, downs No. 7 Auburn in Peach Bowl
ATLANTA, GA. (WSFA) - An upset complete. No. 12 UCF finished off a 34-27 win in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to finish 13-0 on the season.
Although it was a win, it didn't come easily.
It was a track meet in the second half after two of the best offenses in the country only managed to combine for 20 points at halftime. UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was just 3-for-17 for 30 yards, but he did have 83 rushing yards on seven carries. The Knights took a 13-6 lead into the break.
After halftime, the Auburn offense was catapulted into action after the opening kick was returned to the UCF 26. On second down, Jarrett Stidham and Will Hastings connected for 26 yards and a touchdown to help Auburn tie the game up. Stidham finished 24-of-43 for 331 yards to go along with that passing score.
The Auburn Tigers had come out revitalized and seemed to have UCF on the ropes. The Knights punted after just four plays on their first drive of the second half, leading to another Auburn score.
A 10-play, 82-yard drive was finished off with a Kerryon Johnson run from four yards out, to give Auburn its first lead since early in the second quarter. Johnson had a relatively quiet game. The junior finished with only 71 yards on 22 carries with that one rushing touchdown in the third.
The UCF offense struggled to move the ball once again, punting it back to the Tigers, but the Knight defense held their own the next time out.
Now back with the ball, the UCF offense went back to work. In just six plays, the Knights moved the ball to the Auburn 12 when Milton scrambled around the pocket, keeping the play alive before eventually finding an open receiver in Otis Anderson for six.
Now with the game tied, another stop by the UCF defense propelled the offense back onto the field with confidence. With the game tied and into the fourth quarter, the Knights managed to regain the lead on a 7-play, 56-yard drive in which Milton dropped a screen pass off to running back Dredrick Snelson for a touchdown, making the score 27-20.
UCF had given up a combined 97 points and 1,200 yards in the previous two games, but now were holding the No. 7 Auburn Tigers to 20 points.
Auburn would get a big win on the defensive side. With just under 7 minutes to play in the game, the Tigers blocked a UCF field goal to keep from going down by double digits, but points would find its way on the board again for UCF.
In what initially seemed like the dagger, Auburn's Stidham was intercepted on Auburn's ensuing offensive possession. Chequan Burkett returned the interception 45 yards for a touchdown giving UCF a 14-point lead, the largest lead of the game by any team.
Auburn would make a final push. The Tigers would score on an Eli Stove end around to cut the lead back to 7 with 4:12 to play. After they had driven down the field, an illegal block call wiped out a first and goal for UCF and an opportunity to really put the game away. Knights' kicker Matthew Wright would miss left of the upright giving Auburn one final hope.
The drive began on the Auburn 21. Starting with 2:11 to play, the Tigers manage to work down the field with no timeouts left. A fourth-down conversion kept the drive alive, and then from there the Tigers first downs on back-to-back plays. On a third down with 50 seconds to play, Stidham scrambled for a first down. After an incomplete pass, Stidham was intercepted by Antwan Collier in the end zone. It was Auburn's third turnover of the game, and with 24 seconds to play.
With no timeouts, the No. 7 Tigers could no longer stop the clock, sealing the win for the Knights.
The Knights became the first FBS team to finish the season undefeated since 2013. The 2013 Florida State Seminoles defeated Auburn in the BCS Championship Game 34-31 to finish 13-0.
With the loss, Auburn finishes the season 10-4.
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