Peach Bowl: Scott Frost, UCF Knights complete perfect season by beating Auburn Tigers

By Guy Curtright, The Sports Xchange  |  Updated Jan. 2, 2018 at 10:36 AM
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ATLANTA -- Central Florida completed an improbable unbeaten season in coach Scott Frost's farewell game and struck a blow for non-Power Five Conference schools.

Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third as the Knights finished 13-0 three seasons after going winless, holding on for a 34-27 victory over Auburn on Monday in the 50th Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

UCF sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham six times and intercepted the sophomore twice, including an end zone pick by safety Antwan Collier in the closing seconds.

Linebacker Chequan Burkett had a 45-yard touchdown return of a Stidham interception with just under six minutes remaining to give UCF a two-touchdown lead after the Knights had gone ahead on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Milton to Dredrick Snelson early in the fourth quarter.

Auburn (10-4) quickly got back within a touchdown as Eli Stove capped an 89-yard drive on a 7-yard run with 4:12 left and the Tigers were driving for a potential touchdown when Stidham threw widely into the end zone under heavy pressure.

Frost, who turned around UCF in just two seasons, is returning to Nebraska, his alma mater, as coach, but stuck around for the Peach Bowl and the chance to see his team through an unbeaten season.

UCF was the only unbeaten FCS team, but the American Athletic Conference champion got little respect in the College Football Playoff rankings, finishing 12th. Southeastern Conference runner-up Auburn was seventh.

McKenzie, voted most outstanding offensive player, had 358 total yards, rushing for 116 and passing for 242 while going 16 of 35.

Stidham completed 28 of 43 passes for 331 yards but also lost a fumble in addition to the two interceptions.

Noah Igbinoghene returned the second-half kickoff 72 yards and Auburn scored two plays later on a 26-yard pass from Stidham to Will Hastings.

Kerryon Johnson's 4-yard run climaxed an 80-yard drive the next time Auburn got the ball, putting the Tigers ahead. But Milton capped a 65-yard drive with a 12-yard pass to Otis Anderson late in the third quarter to tie the score again.

UCF sacked Stidham five times in the first half and it was a second-quarter fumble by the Auburn quarterback that helped the Knights to a 13-6 lead at intermission.

Safety Tre Neal returned the fumble forced by nose guard A.J. Wooten 36 yards and Milton scored on an 18-yard run two plays later.

Matthew Wright, who had a 25-yard field goal attempt blocked and missed from 38 yards in the fourth quarter, kicked field goals of 33 and 45 yards for the Knights in the second quarter, the later on the final play of the first half after Daniel Carlson had connected from 46 yards for Auburn with 45 seconds left.

Carlson, the SEC's career scoring leader, kicked a 25-yard field goal and missed from 53 yards in the first half.

NOTES: UCF S Kyle Gibson was disqualified for targeting in the fourth quarter. ... Auburn was missing three-year starting CB Carlton Davis, who was sent home Saturday with what coach Gus Malzahn described as an illness that "just didn't get better." Davis suffered a concussion in the Tigers' loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship. ... UCF was without LT Aaron Evans, who had started 37 straight games. He had surgery last week for a lingering back injury. ... Former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, named to replace Frost shortly after Frost signed to go to Nebraska, watched the game from a private box at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. ... Auburn will begin next season back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, playing Washington in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Sept. 1.

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