At the start of the 2018 Peach Bowl, the Auburn defense had UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton looking like your average Group of 5 quarterback. By the end, the Tigers witnessed Milton establish himself on a national stage.
Auburn had no answers top stopping Milton down the stretch in UCF’s 34-27 victory in the 2018 Peach Bowl. The sophomore quarterback was masterful when the game was on the line, going 5-of-7 in the fourth quarter with 103 yards and UCF’s go-ahead touchdown.
Auburn linebacker Jeff Holland made it clear how highly he thought of Milton by comparing him to the latest Heisman Trophy winner.
“He reminded me of Baker Mayfield. He was one of those quick guys out of the pocket,” Holland said. “(Stopping a dual threat) is the game. It comes with it. We’ve just got to adjust to it and stay in the game.”
Holland learned the hard way how difficult it was to knock the speedster Milton off his game in the fourth quarter. With Auburn trailing 27-20, Holland gave his team a huge jolt by sacking Milton for a six-yard loss. The very next play, Milton couldn’t seem less phased, breaking through the Auburn defense for a 23-yard gain that make Holland’s huge play a distant memory.
The most dangerous thing about Milton on Monday was that when his arm wasn’t working, his legs were still chugging along. Milton had a paltry opening to the game throwing the ball — starting with a 3-of-17 stat line — but his speed made him just as dangerous behind center.
His ability to scramble made his early inaccuracy of little advantage to Auburn.
“He was like 3-for-18, but he got a lot of first downs running the ball and doing his thing,” defensive back Tray Matthews said. “We got a couple of good pressures on him in the second half, but we still couldn’t contain him.”
Matthews explained that Milton’s elusiveness was a nightmare for any defense. When Auburn would play zone defense, the Knights would throw under routes to slowly pick at the holes in the defense. His ability to move out of the pocket also allowed the receivers to freelance, making every play one wrong turn away from chaos on the Tigers’ side.
Before the game, UCF head coach Scott Frost said Milton would “put on a show” against Auburn. Though the Tigers tamed him in the early goings, the playmaker’s penchant for big plays was something they could only contain for so long.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports