LSU (10-3, No. 11 CFP) started its first Fiesta Bowl without several key players on defense and fell into an early 11-point hole against the high-scoring Knights (12-1, No. 8 CFP).
The Tigers clawed back behind Burrow and a defensive front that made life difficult for UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr.
Burrow was slow getting up after being blindsided by 313-pound defensive lineman Joey Connors on an interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. LSU’s junior quarterback returned to the game and picked apart UCF’s secondary, hitting 21 of 34 of passes, including two touchdowns to Justin Jefferson.
LSU sacked Mack five times and made him rush numerous throws, holding the nation’s third-best offense to 250 total yards — 295 below its average — while spoiling the Knights’ bid for a second-straight self-proclaimed national title.
Taj McGowan scored on a 2-yard run and the Knights converted a 2-point conversion to pull UCF to within 40-32. After LSU recovered the onside kick, the Knights’ last-ditch attempt ended on a tipped interception.
UCF declared itself national champions after finishing as the only undefeated FBS team a year ago. The Knights earned another shot at an undefeated season by staging a massive rally to beat Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game.
Just like last year, UCF was on the outside looking in when the CFP final four was announced, adding to the boulder-sized chip on its shoulder and only a self-awarded national title in its reach.
The Speedy Knights got the Fiesta Bowl off to a fast start, going up 14-3 on Joe McCrae’s 25-yard TD run and Brandon Moore’s 93-yard interception return.
No. 16 Kentucky 27 No. 13 Penn State 24
Snell scored on runs of 2 and 12 yards in the second half, then carried for a couple of crucial first downs to help Kentucky (10-3) run out the clock after Penn State’s Trace McSorley trimmed a 27-7 deficit to three points despite playing with a foot injury.
McSorley threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, and the Nittany Lions’ career passing and wins leader also rushed for a team-high 75 yards on 19 attempts.
Lynn Bowden Jr. scored on a 58-yard punt return for Kentucky, and Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year Josh Allen had three of the Wildcats’ six sacks.
Penn State (9-4) trailed 27-7 entering the fourth quarter, but McSorley’s wasn’t finished. His 1-yard TD run capped a 75-yard drive, and he followed with an 18-yard TD pass to Pat Friermuth to cut Kentucky’s lead to six.
The Nittany Lions marched to the Kentucky 14 on their next possession to pull to within 27-24 with 4:12 left.
Thanks to Snell, a junior who already has declared for the NFL draft, McSorley didn’t get the ball back until just one second was left on the clock.
Kentucky finished with its first 10-win season since 1977, when the Wildcats went 10-1.
Iowa 27No. 18 Mississippi St 22
Gervase also batted down an errant fourth-down pass to end the Bulldogs’ final drive at the Iowa 32 with 25 seconds left. Two earlier Mississippi State threats in the fourth quarter led to only three points.
The Hawkeyes totaled just 199 yards, with 75 coming on a touchdown pass from Nathan Stanley to Nick Easley, but they converted three takeaways into 17 points.
Stanley threw for 214 yards and three scores. The Hawkeyes won despite netting minus 15 yards rushing, and their three running backs totaled 4 yards in 15 carries.
Iowa (9-4) earned its biggest postseason victory since an Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech to cap the 2009 season. Mississippi State (8-5) lost to a team outside the top 15 for the first time.
Trailing 24-19, the Bulldogs had a first down at the Iowa 1 early in the fourth quarter, but three quarterback draws lost 2 yards and they settled for a field goal.
They were again on the verge of taking the lead with nine minutes left, but receiver Stephen Guidry bobbled a pass in the end zone, and Gervase snatched it away. The Hawkeyes then drove 50 yards for a field goal to go up 27-22.
Oklahoma, Coach Reach Deal
Oklahoma announced on Tuesday that contract terms were being finalized and would be subject to approval by the board of regents late this month.
The 35-year-old Riley has led the Sooners to consecutive Big 12 championships and College Football Playoff appearances. Oklahoma is 24-4 overall and 16-2 in the conference under Riley with two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks — Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Riley was promoted from offensive coordinator at Oklahoma in the spring of 2017 after Bob Stoops retired. Oklahoma’s creative and prolific offenses have drawn attention of NFL teams and made Riley a potential candidate to fill coaching vacancies in the league.