The Tigers were 9-3 entering the game and were rather short-handed in the defensive personnel department. Make that REALLY short-handed. The Tigers had about 8 starters out for multiple reasons. They also had two defenders, including All-American safety Grant Delpit, get ejected for the game. At one point, LSU was playing a wide receiver at cornerback. Two players that made a consistent impact defensively however, were Devin White and Rashard Lawrence.
The UCF Knights were without their excellent starting quarterback McKenzie Milton, given his knee injury in the USF game. Backup Darriel Mack Jr. had the keys to the offense, and he didn’t drive so smoothly. Mack finished with only 97 yards passing and -3 rushing yards, due to the LSU defense consistently getting pressure in the backfield. As a group, the high-flying UCF offense was held to only 250 yards, while their defense gave up 555 to the LSU offense.
Joe Burrow had one of his best games as an LSU Tiger, despite getting roughed up constantly by UCF defenders. He finished with 394 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. That included several downfield shots, as the UCF secondary struggled to keep up. With Burrow at the helm, the LSU offense controlled the clock and dominated time of possession 44:31 to 15:29.
Controlling the clock would prove to be critical, due to the personnel issues on defense. When attacked downfield, the Tigers struggled to keep up with some of the UCF receivers. They were helped by the fact that Knights wideouts got a case of the drops. LSU took a double-digit lead going into halftime, and while they struggled to pull away, the Tigers did not let up. UCF got it to an 8-point game late in the 4th quarter, but that’s where the Tigers thrived. Burrow and the rushing attack marched LSU down the field, picking up several key first downs and draining the clock to victory.
LSU finishes the 2018 football season 10-3 and with a Fiesta Bowl victory. It’s a great season considering the questions early one, and head coach Ed Orgeron will have a good squad coming into 2019. He proved that against the defending “national champions.”