ATLANTA – The University of Central Florida Knights football team completed its perfect season Monday with a win over Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, just two years after a season without a single win for many of the same players.
McKenzie Milton's two touchdown passes led the No. 10 Knights to a 34-27 win over the Tigers in the New Year's Day game in Atlanta.
UCF 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.
UCF (13-0) won in its 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.
The Knights thought they deserved a higher ranking after winning the American Athletic Conference and leading the nation in scoring, and they made a strong statement by beating Auburn (10-4).
Frost addressed the AAC ranking decisions after the win saying, “It wasn’t right.”
"These guys deserve everything they get and they deserve more credit from the committee than they got," Frost said of his players.
In UCF’s history, the Knights had won three bowl games before the Peach Bowl. The last bowl game the Knights won was the Fiesta Bowl in 2014, defeating Baylor University.
The Knights will begin a new era with coach Josh Heupel, the former Missouri offensive coordinator. Their opening game has not been set, but they will play at North Carolina on Sept. 15.
The crowd roared at the celebration in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and congratulations quickly poured in from Central Florida supporters.
"Now the rest of the country knows what we’ve known all along," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted. "Orlando’s Hometown Team is without a doubt one of the best teams in the country."
Former NFL great Jerry Rice congratulated Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin on Twitter in his last game as a UCF player.
“Great game @Shaquemgriffin UCF vs Tigers !!!!” Rice said in a tweet.
UCF alumni hosted more than 20 watch parties around the country, from Washington, D.C., to Denver.
Local fans gathered in Orlando at the Hooch at Wall Street Plaza where the anticipation and excitement continued to grow after UCF clinched an interception late in the fourth quarter for the win.
"We didn't win a game two years ago and we are about to go undefeated," UCF alumnus Josh Cohen said.
Cohen graduated in 2015, when the UCF Knights had a 0-12 season.
"Last night, we probably got three hours of sleep but this is the biggest game, probably, in UCF's history," UCF alumnus Renato Ortega said.