Auburn's offensive line didn't provide much push in the running game against UCF either. But he fumbled for a fourth-straight game and the pressure forced him into a couple of interceptions including a pick-6 in the fourth quarter and another in the end zone with 24 seconds left in the game and AU driving for the tying score.
UCF matched that in the first half of the Peach Bowl as the defense flustered Stidham and routinely won one-on-one matchups in the trenches.
Kerryon Johnson ran for 71 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run that gave Auburn the lead in the third quarter. Stidham wouldn't have even had that long-shot chance, though, save for a missed 38-yard field goal by UCF kicker Matthew Wright that would have pushed his team's lead to double-digits with 2:18 remaining. He played in the SEC championship game loss to Georgia in a significant amount of pain, finishing with 44 yards rushing on a season-low 13 carries.
"Those who thought they weren't motivated - they're not in our locker room, they're not at our practices, they're not in our meetings", he said.
The UCF Knights look for their first undefeated season in school history and first bowl victory since 2013.
UCF took a 27-20 lead as Milton hit Dredrick Snelson on the run for an 8-yard touchdown pass to complete a 59-yard drive.
The Auburn Tigers made a case for being the best team in the country and could have made the playoffs if it weren't for a late season loss in the SEC title game. "There were some one-on-one matchups that we got beat on, for lack of a better term".
"There's some unusual circumstances, but our staff is completely committed and we're going to do everything we can for this football team", Frost said.
Auburn (10-4) quickly got back within a touchdown.
"We didn't execute in the first half worth a crap", senior left tackle Austin Golson said.
Adrian Killins, the Knights' leading rusher with 762 yards and 10 touchdowns, gave the Tigers a little bulletin-board material when he said that Auburn "hasn't seen any speed like we have". However, the UCF Knights are a really solid football team on both sides, and they're a tight group that wants to finish something special. Helped get us to here. I still expect for quarterback McKenzie Milton to show off how he's accumulated 3,795 yards and 35 touchdowns through the air and added 497 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Milton threw two touchdowns to give UCF a lead in the fourth quarter. Instead, Alabama tied the game two possessions later.
"Any time you don't do a good job protecting your quarterback, that makes things extremely tough", Malzahn said. "We've got to learn from that aspect of it and know you've got to win the games you're supposed to".
"I'm happy at Auburn", Malzahn said. I expect this game to more closely reflect the 2008 Sugar Bowl wherein Georgia brought an undefeated Hawaii team to reality in a 41-10 win for the Bulldogs. That blowout loss to Georgia may not be at the forefront of their minds, but the Auburn players will be hungry and looking for a big win on the big stage.