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The college football world was in for a treat on New Year’s Day 2019. It was #8 ranked UCF Knights taking on #11 ranked LSU Tigers in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. The two juggernauts didn’t disappoint, and both teams laid it all on the line in the final game of their seasons.
The game began explosively with the Tigers returning the open kickoff for 79 yards and was in prime position to take a 7-0 lead. That was until The Knight’s vaunted red-zone defense held the Tigers to a field goal. UCF’s following drive would result in an easy touchdown by Greg McCrae, and they took a 7-3 lead over the Tigers. On the next drive, LSU matriculated their way down the field to just inside of the Knights 20-yard line and Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow fired a pass towards LSU’s sideline that was picked off by cornerback Brandon Moore for a 93-yard touchdown to give the Knight’s a comfortable 14-3 lead.
The Tigers began driving again until they reached just outside of the red zone where the Knight’s had the Tigers pinned to a wall at fourth down. The Tigers went for it and barely received the first down and the very next play resulted in a 22-yard touchdown pass by Joe Burrow. Tigers cut the lead to 14-10. Near the end of the first quarter, cornerback Terrance Alexander was penalized and thrown out of the game for throwing a punch after a Knight’s fumble.
Alexander was the fourth starting cornerback that LSU was without this game after Greedy Williams chose to sit this came out to prepare for the upcoming NFL draft. Towards the beginning of the second quarter, the Tigers would take the lead after Burrow fired a deep touchdown to wide receiver Derek Dillon where the Tigers took a 17-14 lead. The Tiger’s defense kept the momentum and forced their opponents to punt from inside their red zone, and the next score wouldn’t come until Justin Jefferson, who already had one touchdown, caught his second touchdown of the day on a completely blown coverage by the Knights.
The Tigers took a ten point 24-14 lead, and on the following UCF drive, Central Florida was caught in a tricky spot and chose to take a chance go for it on fourth down. The pass was batted down, and the Tigers received the turnover on downs. Later in the quarter, when the Knights had the ball with 4 seconds until halftime, Knights quarterback Mack Jr. fired the football towards the back left of the end zone for a miraculous touchdown to keep the game in reach. Going into halftime, Tigers lead 24-21.
Although the score going into halftime was close, LSU dominated the first half by holding the ball for 21 minutes and 15 seconds of its duration. UCF received the second half kickoff but could make nothing out of it. The second half scoring began with 12:45 seconds left in the third quarter. Joe Burrow threw ANOTHER touchdown to give the Tigers a little more breathing room with a 31-21 lead. Also, once again the Knights would have to punt on the next drive for the second time in the third quarter.
After the punt, LSU looked to add to their ten point lead and managed to plant themselves inside of UCF’s red zone on an extremely time-consuming drive. The Knight’s defense held the Tigers to three points, hoping to stay in reach where the Tigers increase their lead, 34-21.
The UCF offensive line allowed another sack and the knights had to punt again. On this punt, however, Jefferson muffed the fair catch, and UCF took back control on the Tiger’s 20-yard line. UCF missed their opportunity though after being held to a field goal. At the beginning of the final quarter, The Tigers still lead 34-24.
LSU had the opportunity to score a touchdown in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. However, Jefferson dropped an open pass in the quarter of the end zone. The Tigers kicked the field goal and increased the lead by three; 37-24. UCF again could not take advantage of the momentum and be forced to punt.
Again LSU’s offense let them down in the red zone, and they were forced to kick another field goal from the ten-yard line where LSU increases the lead 40-24. After the kick, UCF would finally find the end zone again on a running play for six points and had time to think over their next move because of an injury to Tigers Rashard Lawerence. The Knights went for the 2-point conversion and got it with ease. The Knights found a glimmer of hope cutting the Tiger’s lead to 40-32. The Knights attempted an onside kick but failed to recover it but LSU, however, was forced to punt the ball back to the Knights with 47 seconds left on the clock.
Could UCF pull off a miracle in Arizona? Knights Darriel Mack Jr. threw an interception on the second play of the drive, and LSU kneeled to run out the clock. The Tigers won 40-32. Joe Burrow shined in this bowl game, posting an incredible stat line. Burrow completed 21 passes for 394 yards and three touchdowns which in return helped the Tigers win their final game of the season.
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