Eli Stove

Associated Press

No. 12 UCF completes perfect season with Peach Bowl triumph over No. 7 Auburn

9 Comments

If you’re going to go undefeated, at some point the quote-unquote other side of the ball is going to have to carry you. For No. 12 UCF, that point arrived Monday, in the most important game of the best season in school history.

One game after allowing Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson to throw for 471 yards and four touchdowns in a 62-55 double overtime win in the AAC championship, the Knights’ defense harassed and confused Jarrett Stidham throughout the afternoon, sacking him six times and fooling him into two game-changing interceptions to secure a 34-27 win over No. 7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

The win secured the first winless-to-perfect 2-year turnaround in major college football history and, in Scott Frost‘s final game as head coach, secured UCF’s second New Year’s Six bowl win in the past five seasons. The Knights’ win moved mid-majors to 8-3 against Power 5 programs in BCS/CFP games, and joined UCF with Utah and Boise State as the only mid-majors with two major bowl wins over Power 5 opponents in the BCS/CFP era. UCF’s win also pushed the AAC to a 2-0 mark in the CFP era, following Houston’s win over Florida State at the close of the 2015 season.

Auburn (10-4) created the first break of the game by forcing a fumble at midfield, recovered by the Tigers’ Deshaun Davis. He was ruled down upon hopping on the lose pigskin at the Auburn 49, but replays showed Davis possessed the ball while still live with an ocean of green turf the only thing between he and the end zone. However, the play was not reviewable and, instead of a likely touchdown, Auburn was forced to settle for a 25-yard Daniel Carlson field goal after failing to convert a 3rd-and-4 at the UCF 8-yard line. 

Carlson missed a 53-yard try to open the second quarter, and UCF (13-0) answered with a field goal of its own, a 33-yard Matthew Wright boot to tie the game at 3-3 with 11:15 left in the first half.

Another fumble created the next break in the game, this time by Auburn. Stidham was forced into a fumble by UCF’s A.J. Wooten, which the Knights’ Tre Neal recovered and returned 36 yards to the Auburn 21. McKenzie Milton produced the first touchdown of 2018 two plays later on a 18-yard rush, putting UCF on top 10-3 with 8:51 left in the first half. 

UCF had a great opportunity to push its lead to 14 points when Otis Anderson broke free in the Auburn secondary, but Milton’s 3rd-and-8 pass was just out of his reach and the Knights punted. Auburn took over at its own 9 with 4:54 before halftime and methodically moved to the UCF 21 with under a minute left, but Stidham was sacked on 3rd-and-10 and Carlson converted 46-yard field goal.

UCF answered by moving 42 yards in five plays, setting up a 45-yard Wright field goal as time expired to push the lead back to a touchdown.

Auburn roared out of the second half gate, using a 72-yard kickoff return by Noah Igbinoghene to set up a 26-yard scoring toss from Stidham to Will Hastings to tie the game. Auburn then took the lead on a 10-play, 82-yard drive capped by a 4-yard Kerryon Johnson run.

But just when it seemed UCF might unravel, instead the Knights rallied. A 12-yard pass from Milton to Anderson tied the game at 20-20 with 1:20 to play in the third quarter, and an 8-yard toss from Milton to Dredrick Snelson gave UCF a touchdown lead with 11:36 remaining.

UCF then grabbed a stranglehold on the game when Chequan Burkett stepped in front of a Stidham pass and raced it 46 yards for a touchdown, handing the Knights a 34-20 advantage with 5:56 to play.

Auburn needed only 1:44 to pull back within seven on a 7-yard Eli Stove end-around, and the Tigers were given new life when Wright missed a 38-yard field goal with 2:18 remaining, his second miss of the fourth quarter. Stidham drove the Tigers to the UCF 21 with 24 seconds remaining, but an end zone heave was intercepted by Antwan Collier to seal UCF’s undefeated season.

Stidham completed 28 of his 43 throws for 331 yards and a touchdown, but he was sacked a half-dozen times and picked twice in the fourth quarter, while Johnson was limited to 22 carries for 71 yards and one score.

Milton had his worst passing game of the season, completing only 16-of-35 throws, but still threw for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and led all ball-carriers with 13 rushes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

No. 1 Alabama cruises to third straight Iron Bowl triumph over No. 13 Auburn

AP
1 Comment

In a game that seemed like a close matchup in ranking only, No. 1 Alabama cruised to a 30-12 victory over No. 13 Auburn, giving the Tide their third straight Iron Bowl victory and sending the club into the College Football Playoff regardless of next week’s outcome in the SEC Championship.

Two Jalen Hurts interceptions and a big punt return allowed Auburn to stay within 13-9 at the half despite trailing 14-1 in first downs, but a clean second half from the Tide’s talented freshman quarterback allowed Alabama to cruise to a comfortable victory. A 4-yard scoring dash by Hurts put Alabama up 20-9 at the 9:58 mark of the third quarter, and his 38-yard strike to ArDarius Stewart on Alabama’s next possession put the game out of reach at 27-9.

Coupled with a first half scoring strike to Damien Harris, Hurts finished the game connecting on 27-of-36 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 12 times for 37 yards and a score. Bo Scarborough led all runners with 17 carries for 90 yards, and Harris added nine carries for 47 yards. Stewart hauled in 10 receptions for 127 yards and a score.

In the end, the only drama of the game proved to be whether Alabama could complete the entire month of November without allowing a touchdown. And they did. Four Daniel Carlson field goals were Auburn’s only dents on the scoreboard, and Alabama will enter next week’s SEC title game having not allowed an opponent to cross the goal line since the third quarter of the Texas A&M game back on Oct. 22.

Playing without starting quarterback Sean White, Auburn struggled to create any offense against Alabama’s suffocating front. Jeremy Johnson earned the start and completed 4-of-13 passes for 34 yards. John Franklin III finished the game and hit 2-of-4 passes for 85 yards, but even his 55-yard strike to Eli Stove did not result in a touchdown. Nominally productive running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson combined to rush 20 times for 56 yards.

Overall, Alabama out-gained Auburn 501-182 and won the first downs battle 26-7.

Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) will now begin preparations to meet Florida in the SEC Championship while Auburn (8-4, 5-3 SEC) awaits its bowl destination.

No. 21 Auburn rushes for 543 yards in 56-3 win over No. 17 Arkansas

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

No. 21 Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) rushed for more yards against No. 17 Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) than any team has since before the turn of the century en route to a smashing 56-3 victory over the Razorbacks Saturday evening in Jordan Hare Stadium. When all was said and done, the Tigers racked up 543 rushing yards.

Kamryn Pettway led the ground attack with 192 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Eli Stove had a 78-yard touchdown run to boost his 94-yard day and Stanton Truitt rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns to add to Auburn’s wildly productive day on the ground. Quarterback Sean White was a part of the fun too, with 61 rushing yards and a score to go with his 77 passing yards and passing touchdown.

On the other side, Auburn’s defense never allowed Arkansas to get a running game going. The Razorbacks ran 31 running plays and managed just 25 rushing yards in the game. A combined loss of 14 yards were credited to Arkansas quarterbacks Austin Allen and Ty Storey. Allen was forced to leave the game in the first half due to an apparent knee injury but he returned after a brief absence. Rawleigh Williams III was the leading rusher for the Razorbacks with 22 yards on 13 carries.

Auburn also played a pretty clean game with just two penalties for 10 yards and no turnovers (Arkansas had two turnovers). The Razorbacks are going to have to think long and hard about this one, or simply put the game film in the trash and forget about it. Either way, there was no denying this was one of the worst losses Arkansas has experienced under Bret Bielema.

Arkansas will get a little extra time to prepare for their next game. The Razorbacks have a much-needed bye week coming up next weekend, giving them an extra week to prepare for a home game against Florida.

OK, so time to look forward for Auburn. Before you start looking to the end of the year with the Iron Bowl matchup with Alabama, Auburn has to go on the road next week to play Ole Miss. Yes, the Rebels may be a fringe top-25 team this season, but there is no question they can be a dangerous opponent. However, Auburn’s defense has been playing very well the past month and has now held each of their past four opponents to fewer than 15 points. Doing that against Ole Miss may be difficult, especially on the road, but Auburn is playing with confidence.

Auburn running all over and around Arkansas, 28-3

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It took one play for Auburn to put some points on the scoreboard, and the Tigers have yet to look back on Arkansas. Auburn holds a decisive 28-3 lead on the Razorbacks at the half. Auburn has run for 268 yards to just 26 yards on the ground by Arkansas.

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He was helped off the field and replaced with redshirt freshman Ty Storey. Allen did return to the game.

Eli Stove (85 yards) took off for a 78-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play Auburn got to run after Arkansas was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession. Auburn’s second touchdown drive took a little longer (10-plays, 91 yards). Kamryn Petway (117 yards) finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. Arkansas fumbled away the ensuing possession after just three plays, and Auburn capitalized with a Stanton Truitt touchdown run from 20 yards out.

It’s just been a mess of a first half by Arkansas, and the bad news is there is a second half to play.