ATLANTA, Ga. (UCFKnights.com) – Behind 21 unanswered points in the second half, the UCF football team capped a perfect 13-0 season with a 34-27 win over No. 7 Auburn in the 2018 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Down seven late in the third quarter, the No. 12 Knights stormed back into the game. Quarterback McKenzie Milton hit Otis Anderson on a screen pass that the freshman took to the end zone to tie the game with 1:30 to play in the third. Following a Tigers punt, the Knights offense drove back into Auburn territory. Milton danced around a few would-be tacklers, stepped up in the pocket and found a cutting Dredrick Snelson from eight yards out to give the Knights a 27-20 lead.
Auburn took over at their own 20-yard line with 6:58 left to play and a chance to even the score. Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw a pass that was intended for a cutting receiver for a short gain, but senior Chequan Burkettstepped in front to intercept the pass. The native of Montgomery, Ala., had no one in front of him and sprinted 45 yards to the end zone for the game-winning score.
Burkett, along with Shaquem Griffin and the UCF defense, gave the Tigers all they could handle. UCF racked up a season-high six sacks and 11 tackles for loss. UCF recorded a pair of takeaways. In addition to Burkett’s pick-six, A.J. Wooten set up the Knights’ first touchdown in the second quarter. The redshirt junior jarred the ball loose from Stidham, and it bounced into the hands of Tre Neal, which later led to an 18-yard scoring run for Milton.
• Milton was 16-of-35 for 242 and a pair of passing touchdowns and added a score on the ground, earning Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Offensive MVP honors.
• After slow start in the first half, Milton was nearly unstoppable in the second half. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 212 yards.
• The sophomore led the team in rushing with a career-high 116 yards for 8.9 yards per carry.
Milton now holds the UCF record for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback. The previous record was 566, set by Jeff Godfrey in 2010. Milton finished the season with 613.
• Senior Shaquem Griffin saved his best for his final game for the Knights and received the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Defensive MVP Award.
• The redshirt senior tallied a career-high in tackles and tackles for loss with 12 and 3.5, respectively.
• He also added 1.5 sacks.
• Griffin finished the season with the team lead in tackles for loss with 13.5 and sacks with seven.
MARC DANIELS ON THE CALL
Head Coach Scott Frost On why he coached this game…
I wanted to do it for them. I didn’t know if we had a chance or not, but I thought us coaches being here would give us the best chance. I can’t believe they did this. They pulled this off under these circumstances. It’s a credit to these players.
On the last three weeks…
Yeah, it makes it all worth it. I hold my head high because through this whole process and decisions everything and, I tried to do everything the right way the best that I knew how. It was the right thing to do to come coach these guys. I’m not happy for me. I’m so happy for these guys. I told them in the locker room, this was an 0-12 group when I got there, and they looked like they weren’t having any fun and didn’t care about each other. We had a long way to go, and to think that they are sitting here Peach Bowl champions and 13-0 in two years, I couldn’t be happier for them.
On what the game ball means to him…
You know, a memory, I’m going to have a ton of memories from this place. UCF has been unbelievable to me. Having my first child was incredible and then getting to spend time around guys like this all season and watching them have the success that they had. It will be hard for me to ever top 2017.
MCKENZIE MILTON On responding in the second half…
Yeah, you know, we kind of came out sleepwalking, throwing the ball in the air. I don’t know if it was the big lights or the big Jumbotron. You know, I think we kind of started hitting our stride later in the second quarter and then in the third and fourth quarter we started rolling.
But yeah, I mean, coaches were calling good plays and utilizing my legs and the O-line dominated the game today. I don’t think anybody expected them to do that. Just it was an all-around team effort today. Chequan Burkett getting a pick-six, didn’t know if we were going to have him this year, and he pulled that off.
On overcoming expectations…
We didn’t even really look at it like that. We knew Auburn was going to be the best team we played all year, and we’ll line up and go against anybody. I said in the springtime, I’ll take our ballclub against anybody in the country, and I still feel that way.
We played our butts off tonight and we were victorious and this is an unreal moment and I’m going to cherish it forever.
SHAQUEM GRIFFIN On winning as the “underdog”….
Yeah, it’s no better feeling than coming into a game being the underdog, and everybody going around telling you you can’t win, and people say we going to lose by this much and that much. I mean, we just waiting for somebody say, what are we going to win by. We didn’t get that often.
All we could think coming into the game was hit them as hard as we can and keep hitting them each and every second of the game. And that’s what our team did no matter what the circumstances was. When we was down, we made sure we pulled together instead of crushing each other, and we made sure that we made plays when it was time to make plays. The guys, they studied the game plan to the best of their abilities, and it showed in the game today.