GLENDALE, AZ – With a 25-game win streak on the line, the UCF Golden Knights met a motivated LSU Tigers team on Tuesday afternoon at State Farm Stadium for the 48th annual Fiesta Bowl.
LSU Joel Burrow put together a dominant performance, completing 21 of 34 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns to just one interception, as the Tigers upset No. 8 UCF 40-32 final score.
UCF head coach Josh Heupel felt that they [UCF] “weren’t good enough to find a way to win the ball game. Love the way they competed for four quarters, continued to fight with everything that they had. Believed. Played as a group, just weren’t good enough at the end.”
The game started out a bit testy, as a depleted and hungry LSU team was looking to avenge their seven-overtime loss to Texas A&M over a month ago and possibly snap the winning streak held by UCF.
Still feeling a bit slighted for not getting to the college football playoff for the second-straight year, things were in store for an epic showdown in the desert
UCF jumped out to an early, 14-3 first quarter lead when Golden Knights defensive back Brandon Moore intercepted an errant pass by Burrow, returning it 93 yards for the score. During the touchdown return, Burrow got leveled on the play in which LSU head coach Ed Orgeron thought should have been a targeting call.
Luckily, Burrow wasn’t down for long and was able to pop back up after the hit. Following the game, the junior quarterback felt “the only reason I didn’t get up in one second, was because I got the wind knocked out of me, and I would have got up immediately if that didn’t happen” as he smirked.
However, the Tigers grit was clearly on display as they came storming back, scoring 21 unanswered points to take a commanding 24-14 led with just over five minutes to play in the half. Burrow’s mentality was to continue to “score touchdowns, complete passes” he said.
When the team needed toughness, they responded. Burrow cited that to the teams’ leadership being founded on exuding toughness, and “it doesn’t start in the season, it starts in the weight room and the off-season”.
UCF would respond, scoring late in the second quarter on a touchdown from Darriel Mack, Jr. to Gabriel Davis to make it 24-21 just before the half.
However, that’s as close as it would get from here on out. The overall physicality and dominance of the SEC clearly on display for all to see.
LSU Rashard Lawrence turned in a dominant performance, finishing the game with five tackles (four for loss) and two sacks. “They [UCF] were a big speed team. They got to the edge a couple of times on us. Earlier in the game they did try to go inside a couple of times and we kind of shut them down” he said, “we got some of the best athletes in the country on our side.”
LSU would hold UCF to just 250 yards of offense, en route to the 40-32 win. Following the victory, LSU improves to 10-3 with plenty of talent returning for next year.
As for UCF, they will look to get back to next season, hopeful to begin another long streak and continuing to build on their success.
“These guys haven’t lost a game since 2016” said UCF senior defensive end Titus Davis, “obviously just looking at where we came from and how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. I mean, this is just one steppingstone, and I feel like next year these guys are going to come back even stronger.”