ORLANDO, Fla. — Notre Dame receiver Miles Boykin lived up to Brian Kelly’s expectations.
The Fighting Irish’s head coach told the junior during a practice leading up to Monday’s Citrus Bowl game against LSU that Boykin was going to win the MVP trophy.
Boykin made not only one of the top plays of this bowl season but one of the more memorable catches in Notre Dame bowl history. He made a dynamic one-handed grab and raced down the sideline for a 55-yard touchdown with 1:28 remaining to give the 14th-ranked Fighting Irish a 21-17 victory over No. 16 LSU.
The win by Notre Dame (10-3) is its first in a New Year’s Day bowl since the 1994 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M and snaps a nine-game skid in January postseason games.
“He looked at me like I had two heads. But I felt like he had a chance,” said Kelly about his prediction. “He’s got the ability, if we could get him the football. And Ian got him the football and Miles made a great individual play and, lo and behold, I’ve got the MVP sitting next to me.”
Boykin had only nine catches for 151 yards and a TD coming into the game, but he got his first start after starters Chase Claypool (shoulder injury) and Kevin Stephenson (suspension) were ruled out.
Boykin showed off his wide-catch radius on what proved to be the game-winning play. On first-and-10 from the Irish 45, Ian Book lofted a pass up the right sideline that Boykin was able to snag with his right hand at the LSU 33, eluding corner Donte Jackson. Boykin then broke a tackle attempt by Donte Jackson at the LSU 26 before finding a clear path to the end zone.
“Ian put it in place where only I could reach it,” said Boykin, who finished with three receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. “It was a great pass and I was just lucky enough to pull it down on one hand. I’ve got pretty big hands.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said that Boykin made a great grab but lamented his defense’s other struggles on the play.
“We had our best cover guy on him (Jackson) but he’s a big receiver,” he said after the Tigers finished the season 9-4. “We had two guys on him and missed the tackle. That’s what I’m mostly disappointed with.”
Book entered the game in the second quarter after Brandon Wimbush struggled moving the offense. The sophomore was 14 of 19 for 164 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Book’s first touchdown came early in the fourth quarter. With Notre Dame trailing 14-6, he found Michael Young in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard score. Josh Adams then scored on a two-point conversion to tie it.
“It was an awesome opportunity, such a surreal moment that last play with Miles,” Book said. “We knew it was going to be a close game. We just had to stay composed and do what we have been doing since January.”
The game lacked drama the first three quarters. It was scoreless until four seconds remained in the first half when a Justin Yoon 46-yard field goal gave Notre Dame a 3-0 halftime lead.
LSU’s Danny Etling was 19 of 33 for 229 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns to Derrius Guice. Guice, who was the MVP of last year’s game, had 98 yards on 21 carries.
THE TAKEAWAY: Notre Dame: Kelly joins Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz as the only Fighting Irish coaches to have three double-digit win seasons at the school.
LSU: Guice, who said after the game that he hasn’t made a decision on whether to leave early for the NFL draft, joins Charles Alexander, Dalton Hilliard, Kevin Faulk and Leonard Fournette as the only players in school history to rush for more than 3,000 yards. He has 3,065 yards in 36 games.
UCF 34, Auburn 27
ATLANTA — McKenzie Milton wanted to throw a blanket of 13 wins and no losses over the College Football Playoff.
After Milton and Central Florida capped a perfect season, he suggested it was time to respect the Knights, even if they weren’t invited to the playoff.
Milton threw two touchdown passes and ran for 116 yards with another touchdown, leading No. 10 UCF to a 34-27 Peach Bowl win over No. 7 Auburn on Monday.
Then it was time to boast.
“I said on the podium you can go ahead and cancel the playoffs,” Milton said. “I’m not changing my mind.”
UCF (13-0) led 34-20 before having to stop a late Auburn comeback. Antwan Collier’s interception in the end zone with 24 seconds remaining clinched the win.
The UCF players launched a joyous postgame celebration, rolling around in confetti on the field while wearing T-shirts that read “Champions.”
The Knights won in their final game with coach Scott Frost, who stayed with the team through the bowl game after accepting an offer to become the new coach at Nebraska , his alma mater. Frost will bring most of his UCF assistants to Nebraska.
“It was the right thing to do to come coach these guys,” Frost said, holding the game ball. “I’m not happy for me. I’m so happy for these guys.”
The Knights thought they deserved a higher ranking after winning the American Athletic Conference and leading the nation in scoring. They made a strong statement by beating Auburn (10-4).
Frost said “it wasn’t right” for UCF to not receive more consideration for the four-team playoff.
“They deserve more credit from the committee than they got,” he said.
Auburn was held to 90 yards rushing on 44 carries.
“That was probably the main stat that was disappointing for me,” Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said.
More dominance: The Knights sacked Jarrett Stidham six times. Auburn had only one sack.
After Auburn took a 20-13 lead in the third quarter on a 4-yard run by Kerryon Johnson, Milton threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Otis Anderson to tie the game. Milton, under pressure, zipped an 8-yard scoring pass to Dredrick Snelson early in the fourth to give the Knights the lead.
Chequan Burkett’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown pushed the lead to 14 points.
Auburn suffered its second straight loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where it was beaten by Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game one month ago.
Johnson, who said he was almost fully recovered from a late-season shoulder injury, ran for 71 yards.
UCF led 13-6 at halftime despite being held under 14 points at the break for the first time this season.
South Carolina 26, Michigan 19
TAMPA, Fla. — Will Muschamp envisions championships in South Carolina’s future.
Lots of them.
“We don’t have all the trophies and the tradition and history but we have some grit,” the coach said after the Gamecocks rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit. to beat Michigan 26-19 in Monday’s Outback Bowl.
“We’ve got some toughness and resolve. You saw us down 19-3 and not a lot of good things happening for us,” Muschamp added. “All the arrows are pointing up for us. We’re going to have those trophies.”
Jake Bentley threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns Monday to pace the win, which gave the Gamecocks (9-4) at least nine wins in a season for just the seventh time.
Bentley shrugged off a slow start to toss scoring passes of 21 yards to Bryan Edwards and 53 yards to Shi Smith, the latter giving his team a 23-19 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The sophomore said once the Gamecocks began to have some success, the offense’s confidence grew.
“It’s just we started to execute well. The excitement, I think, is contagious to the whole team,” Bentley, voted the game’s most valuable player, said. “You see where we went from there.”
Michigan (8-5) finished with its first three-game losing streak under coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines turned the ball over five times after halftime, including an end zone interception that denied them an opportunity to regain the lead with just under eight minutes to go.
The loss also cost the Big Ten a clean sweep of bowl games involving conference members. The league entered 7-0, looking to go unbeaten in postseason play for the first time since 1998 when it went 5-0.
“We kind of let them hang around and they took advantage of it.,” Harbaugh said. “They got better as the game went on. We didn’t get the knockout punch when we needed it.”
Bentley was 19 of 32 passing with one interception. Rico Dowdle, playing for first time since breaking his leg against Tennessee on Oct. 14, began South Carolina’s comeback from a 19-3 deficit with a 17-yard TD run.
Brandon Peters had a tough day for Michigan, completing 20 of 44 passes for 186 yards and two interceptions. His second pick, with 1:05 remaining, sealed South Carolina’s second Outback Bowl victory over the Wolverines in five years.
“There’s some really good, and there’s a few I know he’d like to have back,” Jarbaugh said. “But he was battling just like the rest of the guys. There was some error there, a little too much at the wrong time.”
Quinn Nordin accounted for most of Michigan’s scoring, kicking field goals of 35, 26, 45 and 48 yards. Fullback Ben Mason scored on a 1-yard run in helping Michigan build its 16-point lead.
Peters, who returned to the lineup after missing the regular-season finale against Ohio State with a concussion, was hoping to make it more difficult for Harbaugh to replace him next season — even if Shea Patterson is one of coach’s options.
Patterson plans to transfer to Michigan from Mississippi, a program hit with sanctions, and to petition the NCAA to allow him to be immediately eligible.
ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES
South Carolina leads the all-time series between the team 3-1, including a 33-28 victory in the 2013 Outback Bowl. Michigan’s lone win came in 1985.
Michigan: The Wolverines started 4-0, but their inexperience showed in going 5-4 in Big Ten play with losses to Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Losing to South Carolina extended the team’s season-ending skid to three games.
South Carolina: South Carolina feels good about its progress in two seasons under coach Muschamp, whose 15 victories match the most by any coach in his first two years with the Gamecocks. Joe Morrison (1983-84) and Steve Spurrier (2005-06) also won 15.
“This whole month we’ve talked about going on out top and leaving the right legacy for this class,” linebacker Skai Moore, one of 12 seniors on South Carolina’s 109-player roster, said. “It means a lot to this senior group.”
Michigan: Wolverines could open the 2018 season against Notre Dame with a new quarterback. But there likely will not be nearly as many changes as this season when Michigan returned the fewest starters (six) of any FBS program in the country. In addition to Peters and Patterson, the competition for the QB job will include Dylan McCaffrey, son of former NFL player Ed McCaffrey and brother of Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.
South Carolina: Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper last month and must decide on a replacement. Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon called plays Monday, and Muschamp said before the game he was impressed with the job McClendon did during preparation for Michigan.