GLENDALE, AZ (WAFB) - LSU will finish the season back in the top 10 after claiming its first 10-win season and first New Year’s Day bowl victory in five years, while snapping UCF’s 25-game win streak. The Tigers took home a 40-32 win over the Knights in the Fiesta Bowl.
UCF averaged 545 yards entering the contest, but was held to only 250 yards by the Tiger defense. LSU kicker Cole Tracy finished with four field goals. In the process, he set the LSU single-season and the NCAA all-division career record. Tracy finished with 29 field goals on the season. He finished his career with 97 total field goals.
It may sound crazy, but it’s probably true. LSU’s win over UCF is most likely the Tigers' biggest bowl victory since the 2007 BCS national championship.
“These [are] my brothers; I love playing with them,” said junior linebacker Devin White. “I’ll tell anyone how much I love Louisiana. Anytime I have a chance to wear this purple and gold uniform, I’m all for it. I’m so happy we got the win, a 10-win season.”
White, who won the Butkus Award at the end of the regular season, had eight tackles in the game and forced a fumble.
“We’ve been through a lot, on and off the field,” added junior defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence. “And it’s pretty easy when you’ve got brothers you trust to lean on them game-in and game-out. We don’t like to complain too much. We have each other. Keep on pushing.”
Lawrence was named the game’s defensive MVP. He finished with five tackles, four tackles-for-loss, and two sacks. The LSU defense had five sacks in the game.
“Manny Netherly is out there at corner; it seemed we were down five cornerbacks,” said head coach Ed Orgeron. “We put Manny out there and he did a very good job.”
Netherly, a sophomore cornerback who converted from wide receiver last season, was forced into action because of a depleted secondary. All-American cornerback Greedy Williams sat out the game in preparation for the NFL Draft. Another starting cornerback, Kristian Fulton, was out due to injury. Reserve cornerback Kelvin Joseph was suspended for the game. Starting cornerback Terrence Alexander was ejected during the game for throwing a punch. And, starting safety Grant Delpit, an All-American, was ejected for targeting. Netherly gave up a long touchdown pass just before halftime, but otherwise, played well.
“I told these guys this was their chance to step up and make a name for themselves and that’s what they did,” White explained.
You could argue one of the MVPs in this game was UCF defensive lineman Joey Connors. The Tigers didn’t like the hit he put on quarterback Joey Burrow on a pick-six and responded with a 21-0 run.
Burrow finished the game 21 of 34 for 394 yards and four touchdowns. He also had that one interception. Burrow used his legs as well. He carried the ball nine times for 24 yards, including an 11-yard scamper.
“The only reason I didn’t get up is that I had the wind knocked out of me,” said Burrow. “I would’ve got up immediately if I hadn’t.”
“I thought it was targeting. I thought it should’ve been called targeting,” added Orgeron.
“Oh, yeah; I saw him get hit, but Joe is a tough guy,” explained sophomore wide receiver Justin Jefferson. “I knew he was going to get up.”
Jefferson caught four passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. The first was a 22-yarder and the second was for 33 yards.
“I knew he was going to get up; Joe’s a soldier,” said senior running back Nick Brossette. “He’s our leader. I’m proud of him. He’s had a great season.”
Brossette pounded the rock on 29 carries for 117 yards. He didn’t score in the game but had a long, 24-yard run on a drive that ended in a touchdown. Also, Brossette surpassed 1,000 yards rushing on the season, becoming the 13th running back in LSU history to reach that milestone.
“As far as a physical game, we play in the SEC. So, I’ve played in more physical games for sure,” Burrow explained.
“I don’t really think they could play in the SEC week-in and week-out, with the style of ball they play with,” White added.
So, as we enter 2019, Ed Orgeron should be feeling pretty good about things. He has a recruiting class that’s very good and plans on adding five or six more signees in early February. Plus, Burrow and these receivers should only get better moving forward.