Glendale, Ariz. — Joe Burrow watched the ball land in an opposing player’s hands and immediately gave chase. Locked in on preventing a pick six, LSU’s quarterback didn’t see Joey Connors, Central Florida’s 313-pound defensive lineman, bearing down on him.
With a thunderous, blindside collision, Burrow found himself flat on his back, woozy and wondering what happened.
Minutes later, after being helped to his feet, Burrow was back on the field, hitting receivers all over the field.
The nation’s longest winning streak was over. So was a second self-proclaimed national championship.
The LSU Tigers were Fiesta Bowl champions, thanks to their gritty junior quarterback.
Burrow shook off the big early hit to throw for 394 yards and four touchdowns, helping No. 11 LSU end No. 7 UCF’s 25-game winning streak with a 40-32 victory in the Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday.
“I didn’t really think about the hit too much after it happened,” said Burrow, who had a cut on his neck from the hit. “It hurt for a second, I got right up and went on to the next play.”
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 returned from the early blindside hit to pick apart UCF’s secondary, hitting 21 of 34 of passes, including two touchdowns to Justin Jefferson.
“It looked like the passing game we wanted,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “Joe was on the money.”
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 finished with a tipped interception, ending a run that started after a loss in the 2016 Cure Bowl.
“Obviously, everyone in the locker room is really upset,” UCF defensive lineman Mason Colubiale. “We haven’t lost a game since 2016.”
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.
But just like last year, UCF was on the outside looking in when the College Football Playoff 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 Greg McCrae’s 25-yard TD run and Brandon Moore’s 93-yard interception return.
The Tigers roared back behind Burrow and their disruptive defensive front.
Burrow shook off the big hit on the pick six, finding Jefferson on a pair of scoring passes and a 49-yard TD to Derrick Dillon.
UCF sputtered offensively after its opening drive, but Mack hit Gabriel Davis on a 32-yard pass in the closing seconds to pull UCF to within 24-21 at halftime.
Burrow opened the second half with a 32-yard TD pass to Ja’Marr Chase, and Cole Tracy hit three field goals to put LSU up 40-24. Tracy’s final kick, the 97th of his career, broke the NCAA all-division record and ended the nation’s fourth-longest winning streak since 2000.
“Love the way they competed for four quarters, continued to fight with everything that they had. Believed. Played as a group,” UCF first-year coach Josh Huepel said. “Just weren’t good enough at the end.”
No. 14 Texas 28, No. 6 Georgia 21: Sam Ehlinger ran for three touchdowns, the Texas defense largely held Georgia’s offense in check, and the Longhorns earned their first 10-win season since 2009 with the win in New Orleans.
Ehlinger was the star of a gritty win, running for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter, a 9-yard score in the second, and a 1-yard TD in the fourth. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound sophomore finished with 64 yards rushing on 21 carries and also threw for 169 yards.
Georgia (11-3) was a 12½-point favorite, but was sloppy at the outset.
Texas jumped out to a 17-0 lead by early in the second quarter, largely because of Georgia’s mistakes on special teams and offense.
Georgia got back into the game with a methodical 12-play drive that ended with Jake Fromm finding Brian Herrien for a 17-yard touchdown, but Texas still took a 20-7 advantage into halftime.
Fromm completed 20 of 34 passes for 212 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown with 14 seconds left to pull within 28-21 but Texas recovered the ensuing onside kick.
No. 16 Kentucky 27, No. 13 Penn State 24: Benny Snell Jr. ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns to become Kentucky’s career rushing leader and help the Wildcats wrap up their best season in more than four decades with a victory over Penn State in Orlando, Fla.
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 Trace McSorley of Penn State (9-4) 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.
Kentucky finished with its first 10-win season since 1977, when the Wildcats went 10-1.
Snell broke Sonny Collins’ career rushing record on his 12-yard TD run that made it 27-7 late in the third quarter. Collins rushed for 3,835 yards from 1972-75.
Iowa 27, No. 18 Mississippi State 22: Safety Jake Gervase made an interception in the end zone to help preserve a late lead, and ball-hawking Iowa Hawkeyes beat Mississippi State in Tampa, Fla.
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.