Atlanta, Ga. (EETV) - No. 7 Auburn struggles offensively to lose the Peach Bowl to No. 12 UCF 34-27.
UCF was able to halt an Auburn comeback in the final seconds by picking off quarterback Jarrett Stidham with 34 seconds left on the clock.
The Tigers struggled to get star running back Kerryon Johnson or his teammates, Kam Martin and Devin Barrett, going. The Knights would hold the powerful Auburn running game to 90 total rushing yards on the night.
"That was probably the main stat that was disappointing for me," Auburn head coach Gus
Auburn jumped out to an early 3-0 in the first quarter off of a 43-yard drive capped by a Daniel Carlson field. The Tiger lead would quickly diminish with UCF overpowering the Auburn offense.
UCF would force Stidham to fumble in the second half at the UCF 43-yard line. Quarterback McKenzie Milton would turn the turnover into points, running in for the 3-yard touchdown to put UCF up 10-3.
The Knights were able to constantly put pressure on Stidham throughout the game, sacking him six times on the day.
"Any time you don't do a good job protecting your quarterback, that makes things extremely tough," Malzahn said.
UCF continued to dominate the Tigers throughout the half, going into halftime up 10-6.
Coming out of the half, the Tiger offense awoke offensively. Only 43 seconds into the half Stidham found Will Hastings for a 26-yard score to tie the game.
"We had some seniors step up at half-time to challenge and we came out," Malzahn said about what gave his team a spark to start the second half.
Auburn would score again on back-to-back drives with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Johnson. However, UCF halted the Auburn attack and Milton would put his offense to work.
Milton, the Peach Bowl Offensive MVP, hooked up with Otis Anderson late in the third quarter to tie the game at 20. Milton would later open up the fourth quarter for the Knights with an 8-yard touchdown to Dredrick Snelson to give the Knights the lead.
"Hats off to their quarterback," Malzahn said of Milton. "He made a lot of plays in the second half with his feet and he threw the ball very accurately."
Milton would end the night with 3 touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing), 242 yards passing and 116 yards rushing.
UCF continued to rattle Stidham throughout the second half, forcing him to throw his fifth interception of the season. The pick would fall into the hands of Chequan Burkett, who would run it back 45-yards to put UCF up 34-20.
Stidham would end the night with 331 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 INTs and a fumble.
With the loss, Auburn falls to 10-4 on the season and Malzahn drops to 1-4 in bowl games. This is the Tigers second loss in Mercedes Benz Stadium, the venue they are set to play at to open up their 2018 season against Washington.