Rapid Reaction: Costly mistakes hurt Auburn in Peach Bowl loss to UCF
The Peach Bowl was a roller coaster ride from the opening kickoff, with UCF taking the early momentum before Auburn bounced back in a big way to start the second half.
From there, though, the Knights regained the momentum and held a 27-20 lead in the fourth quarter. A blocked field goal in the final period gave Auburn life, but then QB Jarrett Stidham fired what would prove to be a back-breaking interception that was returned for a touchdown.
The Tigers continued to show some fight, but they couldn’t battle back all the way and ended up losing 34-27.
It was the perfect end to a magical season for the Knights, while the Tigers finish the year with four losses.
Here are some quick takeaways from what ended up being a thrilling Peach Bowl battle:
Sloppy first half
From K Daniel Carlson missing a kick, which he doesn’t do very often, to Jarrett Stidham fumbling the ball away, it was a sloppy first half for Auburn.
Fortunately for the offense, the defense made sure the Tigers only trailed 13-6 going into the intermission, but it wasn’t a great start to the game for coach Gus Malzahn’s crew.
Tough break on a fumble
In the first quarter, UCF QB McKenzie Milton fumbled, and it was recovered by Auburn LB Deshaun Davis. As you can see below, though, Davis probably should have had a touchdown, but the refs whistled the play dead instead:
— CFB Gif'er (@CFBgifer) January 1, 2018
Obviously, that is a very tough call to make in real time, but it did hurt the Tigers, as they only ended up with three points on the ensuing drive instead of six or seven.
Huge momentum change to start second half
The first half didn’t go according to plan for the Tigers, but the second half couldn’t have started any better.
KR Noah Igbinoghene returned the first kickoff of the third quarter 72 yards to put the Tigers in scoring range, and Stidham hit Will Hastings for a touchdown shortly thereafter.
Blocked field goal was clutch
With the Knights leading 27-20 in the fourth quarter, they lined up for a short field goal to try to extend their lead to two possessions.
However, the Tigers had other plans, as Derrick Brown burst through the UCF offensive line and blocked the kick, keeping Auburn’s deficit at seven points.
Too many costly mistakes
After the blocked kick, the Tigers were moving on offense, but then Stidham threw a pass straight to a UCF defender and it was returned for a back-breaking touchdown. He then threw a bad pick on a play with the game on the line in the final minute.
Stidham also lost a fumble in the first half and his mistakes proved to be too much for the Tigers to overcome. He had a great 2017 season, but he does need to fix some things this offseason if he’s going to develop into one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks.
Kerryon my wayward son?
If this was the last time we see RB Kerryon Johnson in an Auburn uniform, it will be sad, but he went out with another solid effort.
He ran 22 times for 71 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to pick up a win on Monday afternoon. He was one of the best players in the country this year, and if he does decide to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, he’ll be missed across the SEC.
Fairytale ending for the Knights
When Scott Frost accepted the Nebraska job, he did so with the condition that he got to coach UCF in the Peach Bowl. That turned out to be a great decision, as he and his team finished off a 13-0 season.
It will go down as one of the best seasons ever put together by a Group of 5 team, and it was a fitting ending to a fantastic tenure for Frost at UCF.