Perfect season furthers Frost’s claim that his program ‘sells itself’
Nebraska officials have maintained since Scott Frost was hired Dec. 2 that they wanted him to feel free to coach No. 12 Central Florida in the Peach Bowl because he felt strongly that it was his obligation.
Part of the allure, though, was also about the idea that a New Year’s Day bowl game would be something of an infomercial for NU because Frost and his entire coaching staff — now the new Husker coaching staff — would be a major part of the story line.
And what a story it was.
In the end, the benefit for Nebraska will be derived from the product that Frost and company put on the field in dispatching No. 7 Auburn 34-27 on Monday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to cap a perfect season.
“We all said yesterday that Scott Frost looks exhausted,” color commentator Brock Huard said shortly after the game. “He is spent because it is so hard to wear two hats. But he was not going to let (UCF linebacker) Shaquem (Griffin) and these guys down. He wanted to share in this moment, believed they could do it, and indeed they did.”
UCF knocked off an SEC power by sticking to its guns.
When sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton missed on 14 of 17 passes in the first half and had just 30 passing yards, Frost kept the ball in his hands. In the final 30 minutes, Milton completed 13 of 18 for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns — he also ran for 116 yards and a touchdown — and made big play after big play to bring the Knights back from seven down.
“He looked a little nervous early and he missed some throws,” Frost told ESPN’s Allison Williams of the first half. “We had chances. We had a wide-open guy to make it 17-3, we had a chance to kick a field goal to get up 10. We didn’t play our best game and I don’t think Auburn did either, but our kids are fighters and I’m just happy for them.”
When the Tigers struck for 14 quick points in the third quarter and took a 20-13 lead, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander kept coming after Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
The Knights sacked him six times, forced 11 tackles for loss and came away with two key fourth-quarter interceptions. The first, from Chequan Berkett, was returned for a touchdown and a 34-20 lead with 5 minutes, 56 seconds remaining. The second, from freshman Antwan Collier, sealed the victory in UCF’s own end zone with Auburn just 21 yards away in the final 24 seconds.
The Knights played and coached like they knew they belonged on the same stage as Auburn.
“They’re a great team, they’re in one of the best leagues in the country,” Frost said. “But I knew that if we could just neutralize their two front lines, we’d have a chance.”
Frost has said repeatedly that he thinks his system and his program will sell itself. So far, so good in that department, it seems.
“We have the blueprint,” tweeted offensive coordinator Troy Walters after the game. “Looking forward to taking it to Lincoln and competing for CHAMPIONSHIPS. Get onboard or get left behind because we are going to do something special.”
A sample of other social media reaction:
Incoming freshman Tate Wildeman: “Watching this UCF game is gettin me way too hype.”
Verbal commit C.J. Smith, younger brother of UCF wide receiver Tre’Quan, expected to sign in February: “I LOVE COACH FROST AND HIS COACHING STAFF. Amazing game can’t wait to have a 13-0 season.”
The MMQB NFL analyst Albert Breer: “Why has the Big 10 gotten so much better? Easy. Coaches. And based on what UCF is doing right now, there’s another awfully good one coming.”
Sports Illustrated college football reporter Andy Staples: “Amazing what happens when everyone at two schools handles a coaching change like grown-ups. UCF gets a huge win, and Nebraska got a three-hour infomercial for Scott Frost’s coaching.”
CBS Sports college football reporter Tom Fornelli: “I already thought Scott Frost was a really good coach, and now I think he could be a great one. To not only do what he did at UCF so quickly, but to beat Auburn while coaching two teams simultaneously? Man.”