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

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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.

Tom Allen addresses ‘devastating’ shooting death of former Indiana defensive lineman Chris Beaty

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A tragedy that struck the Indiana football program has drawn a response from its head coach.

It was reported Monday that Chris Beaty “was one of two men shot and killed in separate incidents over the weekend as violence erupted in Downtown Indianapolis.” The 38-year-old Beaty was shot multiple times shortly before midnight local time Saturday and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Beaty was a defensive lineman for the Indiana Hoosiers football team from 2000-04.

Monday afternoon, Tom Allen addressed the tragic development.

“I am at a loss for words. The news of the passing of Chris Beaty is just devastating. Since I returned home to coach at Indiana, Chris embraced me, encouraged me and supported me! His passion for life and Indiana Football energized me every time we were together. He was one of our first alumni that displayed his unwavering support for what we are building here at Indiana and how we are building it. I am so heartbroken for his family and he will be deeply missed by all those that were blessed to call him a friend! LEO”

Despite being away from the Indiana football program for nearly two decades, Beaty remained close to it.

HoosierHuddle.com wrote that “Beaty was still actively involved with IU football. He tweeted on April 26th a screenshot of head coach Tom AllenMark Deal and several other Indiana football alumni. He thanked Allen for checking in with the former players and said that IU football was in good hands.”

Included was a tweet from Beaty’s personal Twitter account.

College Football Hall of Famer Pat Dye dies at 80

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In Pat Dye, Auburn has lost one of its most storied head coaches.

Last month, Dye was hospitalized for kidney-related issues.  During that hospital stay, Dye tested positive for COVID-19.  At the time, his son, NFL agent Pat Dye Jr., stated that “[w]e fully anticipate his release from the hospital in the next few days once his kidney function is stable.

Sadly, 247Sports.com is now reporting that Dye died on Monday at 80.  A cause of death has not been released.

The website wrote that “Dye, who was moved to Bethany House in Auburn following a stay at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, listened to phone calls on Monday morning from family, friends and former players on Monday morning.”

A Georgia native, Dye played his college football at the University of Georgia.  He began his coaching career as linebackers coach at Alabama from 1965-73.  From there he became the head coach at East Carolina from 1974-79, then at Wyoming for one season in 1980.

Most famously, though, Pat Dye spent a dozen seasons as the head coach at Auburn.  From 1981-92, Dye went 99-39-4 with the Tigers.  Included in that was a 6-6 record in the Iron Bowl.  And a national championship in 1983.

Under a cloud of NCAA controversy, it was announced on the eve of the 1992 Alabama game that Dye would be resigning at season’s end.  There was also the Condoleeza Rice playoff committee flap.

All told, though, Dye went 153-62-5 as a head coach.  In 2005, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Syracuse great Floyd Little diagnosed with cancer

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One of the famed 44s of the Syracuse football program is in the midst of the “toughest fight of his life.”

On a GoFundMe page created by one of his former teammates, Pat Killorin, it’s was revealed that Floyd Little has been diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t divulged what specific cancer Little is battling, but Killorin described it as “a treatable but aggressive form of” the disease.

“No doubt it will be the toughest fight of his life,” Killorin wrote. “Although he has lived a full life admired and enjoyed by many, Floyd doesn’t believe he has yet written, with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the final play of his life.”

Thus far, the fundraising effort has brought in over $15,000 toward the stated goal of $250,000.

Little was a three-time All-American for the Syracuse football team in the mid-sixties.  He’s the only three-time All-American at the running back in Orange history.  During his time at the school, Little ran for 2,750 yards and 35 touchdowns.

In 1983, Little was inducted into the College Football Hal of Fame.  The sixth-overall pick of the 1967 NFL Draft, Little landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 2005, the Syracuse football program retired number 44 to honor Little, Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and the other players who wore the number.  A decade later, that number was brought out of retirement.

Little returned to his alma mater in 2011 as the special assistant to then-athletic director Daryl Gross.  The Connecticut native left that position in 2016.

“Floyd Little is a fighter,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “I know he will face this disease with the same courage, dignity and strength with which he met all of life’s challenges. “The entire Syracuse Football family is in his corner.”

Ohio State, Georgia in final four for top-rated corner in 2021 recruiting class

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Ohio State already owns the top recruiting class in the next cycle.  The Buckeyes could be set to add to its prospect riches.  Maybe.

On Twitter Sunday, Virginia high schooler Tony Grimes used a video posted on Twitter to reveal his Final Four potential destinations.  And those four potential landing spots?  Georgia, North Carolina and Texas A&M.  And, of course, Ohio State.

That quartet, though, will very likely have to wait a while for a decision.

“So far it is still Dec. 1,” Grimes told 247Sports.com when asked about Decision Day. “I am looking for more of a connection and knowing that there is someone there, that when I get there, I can trust, and someone who is going to develop me. Who is going to develop me more and who is going to put me in a position where I can play, ball out and get developed for the next level?”

Whichever school ultimately signs Grimes, they’ll be getting one of the highest-rated 2021 prospects.

Grimes is a five-star recruit in the next cycle according to the 247Sports.com composite.  He’s the top-rated cornerback in the country.  And in his home state of Virginia, regardless of position.  On that same composite, he’s the No. 7 prospect in the country overall.

Ohio State currently holds the top-rated class in the country.  The Buckeyes currently hold verbals from four five-star 2021 prospects.  The next 11 schools have a combined four such commitments.

As for the other three schools involved in the chase for Grimes?  North Carolina holds the No. 4 class, while Georgia is 12th and Texas A&M is 24th.