The New Year began with a memorable Fiesta Bowl in more ways than one. Many tuned in to see whether or not the UCF Knights could repeat their magic of another undefeated season.
All of the stars looked to be aligning early on as the Knights jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter as Brandon Moore picked off Joe Burrow for a 93 yard interception and return. The Tigers fought their way back into the game and seemingly took control of the Fiesta Bowl, playing their brand of football.
LSU Offense Dominates UCF
Before the actual game, many predicted that UCF’s offense might run into trouble with the Tigers defense. Well it actually was the other side of the ball that ultimately won the game for LSU. After playing from behind early in the game, the LSU offense took control.
Although LSU scored 72 points in a game this season in seven overtimes, the Fiesta Bowl was arguably the Tigers best offensive performance. Domination occurred in several categories for LSU, time of possession being one of them. LSU was able to possess the ball for 44 minutes, in contrast to the Knights who only held the ball for 15 minutes. UCF’s defense having to constantly be on the field wore on the players as the game progressed.
LSU rolled up over 550 yards of total offense. Senior running back Nick Brossette led the rushing attack with 117 yards in his final game as a Tiger. One of the more impressive feats from the game was the domination from LSU’s receivers over the UCF defensive backs. Burrow threw for a career high 394 yards, and did so with four different receivers having more than 75 yards receiving.
The Tigers defense allowed 32 points from the UCF offense but the Tigers did so without several key players. It was announced prior to the bowl game that future first round cornerback Greedy Williams would be sitting out the Fiesta Bowl. His runningmate at the other cornerback slot, Kristian Fulton, was also expected to be out. LSU’s third string corner, Kelvin Joseph, was suspended for the game too.
However what the Tigers did not expect was losing two more starters during the game. Terrence Alexander, who got the start due to the absences, would be ejected for throwing a punch. The versatile safety Grant Delpit would also be ejected because of a targeting penalty. From a depth standpoint LSU would be tested, but overall fared well despite missing key players.
End Of 25 Game Win Streak
The Knights lost control of the game after starting out quickly but as the emotions of the game balanced out, LSU was in control. Offensively the Knights were challenged in every way. UCF was held to 250 total yards. The leading passer and rusher from UCF were both held under 100 yards.
Despite the loss to LSU, the Knights accomplishments the past two years are nothing to gloss over. UCF finished with another undefeated regular season despite changing coaching staffs and won another American Athletic Conference championship, even with redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr. starting the game this season.
UCF’s 25 game winning streak would surpass the win total of every school in the state of Florida within the past three seasons, except Miami which has won 26 games.
For the UCF Knights, a big part of their future will depend on the development of the quarterback. After the gruesome injury to McKenzie Milton, and a possible redshirt next season, Mack Jr. will have to show he is ready to lead the team as the starter. The Knights could possibly go undefeated next season if they’re able to get past Stanford in a non-conference match-up.
Having made it through this season with 10 wins, despite the hardest schedule in college football, LSU is trending upward. As usual the Tigers will lose several players to the NFL Draft but quarterback Joe Burrow returns. Surging sophomores Justin Jefferson and Grant Delpit both return. LSU has plenty of help on the way to Baton Rouge with a top five recruiting class.