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INSTANT REAX: Knights’ Phenomenal Run Ends at the Hands of LSU in Fiesta Bowl Shoot-Out

Mistakes prevent UCF from a second consecutive NY6 win over an SEC opponent.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - LSU v Central Florida Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It was going to end at some point. But that doesn’t make it any less painful.

The UCF Knights’ 25-game winning streak came to an end in a penalty-riddled, wild Fiesta Bowl, 40-32 against the LSU Tigers. It was a game that, in some ways, both teams could have won easily were it not for a few key moments and mistakes on both sides. And yet, UCF had the ball down one possession in the final minute with a chance to tie.

Highlights

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It’s over.

The Knights’ winning streak comes to an end at 25. it was their first loss since the 2016 Cure Bowl against Arkansas State at Camping World Stadium, an astounding 745 days ago.

Cue SemiSonic:

So close, yet so far

LSU beat UCF in the following categories:

  • First downs: 32-17
  • Total yards: 555-250
  • Passing yards: 394-120
  • Total plays: 86-61
  • Time of possession: 44:31-15:29

And yet, despite all that, on the final competitive play of the game, down 8 after scoring late, nearly recovering an onside kick and forcing a 3-and-out, Darriel Mack Jr. and Michael Colubiale nearly pulled off some kind of late Christmas miracle:

This game, as well as every game in this amazing ride, is decided by inches. As Al Pacino said in “Any Given Sunday,” the inches we need are all around us. On Tuesday, for the first time since December of 2016, UCF couldn’t get the inches it needed.

Inches.

Mistakes

Speaking of those inches, what hurt UCF was a series of mistakes:

  • The personal foul on Randy Charlton for spiking the ball on a 3rd down sack up 14-3 that gave LSU an automatic first down and eventually led to their first TD.
  • A few key drops in key situations by key players.
  • 12 penalties worth 104 yards
  • Two turnovers

UCF didn’t have to play the perfect game to win, but some of these errors definitely cost them in what turned out to be a one-possession game.

DJ’s rough ride

It’s hard to escape the fact that redshirt freshman QB Darriel Mack Jr. was making his third career start, and at times looked like a redshirt freshman quarterback making his third career start.

He finished the day 11/31 for 97 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked five times, fumbled the ball away once, and threw the game-ending pick.

About that touchdown though:

Can’t defend that.

Imagine if 2016 McKenzie Milton had played in this game. I suspect the result may have been similar. KZ’s third career start was the ill-fated home game against Temple, where he went 13/22 for 2 TDs and one INT in a last-second loss.

DJ has a spring and another summer to do what KZ did between 2016 and 2017: Hone the craft. Today was a big ask. Assuming KZ isn’t back for 2019, it won’t be as big of an ask for next season.

Cue the schadenfreude

It’s going to be bad. We’ll address it in due time. But for now, don’t be sad it’s over. be glad it happened.

We sure as hell are.