LINCOLN — The infomercial Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos foresaw began earlier than he expected.
Hours before kickoff in Atlanta, first in line to pitch Scott Frost to the world on Monday was Chip Kelly around 9 a.m.
On the set of College GameDay, live from the Rose Bowl, the new UCLA head coach and Scott Frost’s mentor at Oregon told a national TV audience his former offensive coordinator is the real deal.
“When you meet Scott, he’s extremely intelligent,” Kelly said.
Kelly went through Frost’s credentials. Quarterback for Bill Walsh. Quarterback at Nebraska. A national title. Six years as a defensive back in the NFL. Receivers coach and offensive coordinator at Oregon.
“He’s just a smart person and you want to be around him,” Kelly said. “It’s not an act, that’s the way he is. He’s very confident because of how he prepares his team.”
Nebraska’s 2017 season ended the day after Thanksgiving, concluding its worst season since 1961 with a 4-8 record. But on college football’s biggest day of the year, the Husker talk was all over television screens.
Frost, who was hired away by Nebraska from Central Florida in December, kept his word and coached UCF in the Peach Bowl against Auburn on New Year’s Day, leading the Knights to a 34-27 upset win.
The past few weeks, Frost and his entire coaching staff pulled double-duty, flying around the country to recruit for Nebraska while simultaneously leading UCF in Orlando for bowl practice.
Moos gave his blessing for Frost to do so. Primarily, he said on a radio appearance in December, because the Peach Bowl would be “a 3 ½ hour infomercial for Nebraska.”
And an infomercial for Frost, and what Nebraska will be getting in its new head coach, the Peach Bowl was. And it lasted much longer than 3 ½ hours.
After Kelly’s praise of Frost in the morning, Frost showed up again an hour later in the ESPN highlight video recapping the 2017 season. The video featured a small clip Frost, in tears, on the sideline after UCF’s 62-55 double overtime win against Memphis to complete a 12-0 season.
“I’m so happy for these guys,” Frost said. “That’s impossible what they just did.”
In the beginning of the Peach Bowl broadcast, color analyst Brock Huard praised Frost for even being in Atlanta.
“You know what else he’s been? Loyal,” Huard said. “Which isn’t a word we use often in college football. Loyal to his kids here for coaching today, loyal to his staff who he’s bringing all of to Nebraska. Loyal to both of these schools.”
Again before kick, the narrative continued, this time from the sideline reporter Allison Williams, who spoke about UCF’s reaction to Frost coaching in his final game.
Safety Tre Neal told ESPN he had to explain to the younger players that “this is what’s best for coach.”
“He’s getting to return home to Nebraska,” Neal explained.
UCF Quarterback McKenzie Milton told ESPN before the game: “I understand his decision. And we love him no matter what.”
Through the first half, the talk about the Huskers was mostly hush. The word Nebraska was only mentioned four times in the first 15 minutes of play.
But UCF’s play itself was a commercial of what could be coming to Lincoln.
Erik Chinander’s defense all but shut down the Auburn offense in the first half. The Tigers had just six points, and coughed up a fumble which led to UCF’s first touchdown. The Knights sacked Auburn five times in the first half alone, and a pick-six late in the fourth quarter all but sealed the win for the Knights.
The No. 1 scoring offense in the country struggled early, particularly throwing the ball, but showed shades of what the spread offense headed to Lincoln. Frost called a quarterback run for Milton on third-and-10 in the second quarter, which the QB converted. There were option runs and option pitches. UCF scored on a screen pass, something Nebraska could hardly run in 2017. UCF’s fast-paced offense was on full display in their final drive of the first half, tacking on a field goal by driving the field in 29 seconds.
Fans even got a tease of what to expect from Frost as a coach on the sideline. Twice Frost scowled at the ref on a call he disagreed with. On a holding flag that was picked up, Frost pointed and screamed at a ref, demanding an explanation, a stark contrast to Mike Riley’s tranquil sideline presence the past three years.
Nebraska didn’t come up explicitly in the second half much, but the Frost praise kept pouring on. As UCF celebrated the pick-six on the sideline, Huard mentioned Frost most feel like this endeavor of coaching two teams was worth it.
“He did what almost no one does by coaching here today,” Huard said.
Though hardly brought up, the game itself kept Nebraska fans on edge. Watching intently, intrigued about the future Frost might hold for the Huskers.
In the fourth quarter, two Nebraska fans were shown on the screen surrounded by UCF fans.
One wore a shirt that read, “Frost Warning.” The other: “Frost Advisory.”
“They just couldn’t wait for their coach,” ESPN play-by-play announcer Dave Flemming said. “They couldn’t wait for next year.”
Central Florida makes statement with Peach Bowl victory, perfect season
ATLANTA (AP) — McKenzie Milton threw two touchdown passes and ran for 116 yards with another touchdown, leading No. 10 Central Florida to a 34-27 Peach Bowl win over No. 7 Auburn on Monday that capped the Knights’ perfect season.
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.
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.
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).
The Knights sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham six times. Auburn had only one sack.
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. The loss to Georgia cost the Tigers a chance to play in the College Football Playoff.
Kerryon Johnson ran for 71 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run that gave Auburn the lead in the third quarter.
UCF led 13-6 at halftime despite behind held under 14 points at the break for the first time this season.
With 6:58 remaining, Auburn’s Derrick Brown blocked a 25-yard field goal by Matthew Wright that would have given UCF a 10-point lead. Auburn couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to tie the game.
After the interception return by Burkett gave UCF a 34-20 lead, Auburn’s Eli Stove had a 7-yard scoring run with about four minutes remaining. By that time, many Auburn fans in the sellout crowd of 71,109 already had left the stadium.
With 2:18 remaining, UCF’s Matthew Wright missed a 38-yard field goal, giving the Tigers an opening for their last-gasp drive, which ended with the interception.
30 POINTS AGAIN
The Knights, who lead the nation with 49.4 points per game, continued their streak of scoring more than 30 points in every game this season.
UCF: The Knights passed every test, including on the line of scrimmage, as they proved they could match speed and strength with the Tigers. Milton overcame a slow start after completing only 3 of 17 passes for 30 yards in the first half. He completed 16 of 35 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Auburn: The Tigers couldn’t maintain momentum after opening the second half with two touchdowns for a 20-13 lead. Auburn insisted motivation would not be a problem after the crushing loss in the SEC championship game, but the Tigers had no answer when the Knights regained momentum. Stidham completed 28 of 43 passes for 331 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
UCF: 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.
Auburn: The Tigers will return for their third straight game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when they play Washington on Sept. 1 to open the 2018 season.