By Shehan Jeyarajah
GLENDALE, Ariz. – No. 6 Baylor football came into the 43rd annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as double-digit favorites over No. 15 University of Central Florida. By the time the dust cleared, UCF had pulled one of the biggest upsets of the year with a 52-42 win over the Bears on New Year’s Day.
Junior UCF quarterback Blake Bortles was named Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP after throwing for 301 yards and three touchdowns and adding 93 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground. Junior running back Storm Johnson added 124 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, including a 40-yard breakaway to put things away in the fourth quarter.
Junior wide receiver Rannell Hall had 113 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown receptions of 50 and 34 yards in the fourth quarter helped UCF get out to a 28-20 halftime lead over Baylor.
Baylor junior quarterback Bryce Petty threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns. His three touchdowns is the most ever for a quarterback in the Fiesta Bowl. Junior running back Lache Seastrunk ran for 119 yards on 17 carries. Sophomore receiver Jay Lee and freshman Corey Coleman combined for 12 catches and 168 yards.
UCF started off the game with a quick 29-yard run by Bortles on their second play of the game and another 23-yard breakaway by Johnson a few plays later. The runs set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Storm Johnson. The 76-yard drive was entirely comprised of running plays.
Baylor started the game with a three-and-out, and UCF capitalized. Bortles launched a 34-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Breshad Perriman to bring UCF down to the Baylor 17-yard line on the first play of the drive. The pass set up a rushing score by Johnson to give UCF a quick 14-0 lead.
Baylor managed to move past the 50-yard line for the next time on their next drive, but would punt for the second straight drive. Baylor was able to force a three-and-out for UCF after a false start penalty called against UCF.
A poor punt by UCF gave Baylor the ball at the UCF 45. Baylor was finally able to put a drive together on their next drive. Seastrunk broke off for a 29-yard run to bring Baylor within the 8-yard line. A seven yard pass to senior tight end Jordan Najvar set up a quarterback sneak touchdown run for Petty to bring the game within 14-7.
Both Baylor and UCF punted on their next drives. With a 4th-and-8 at the UCF 33, Baylor decided to go for it. With a quarterback sneak set up perfectly, Petty slipped behind the line of scrimmage and caused a turnover on downs for Baylor.
Baylor would get the ball right back. On the third play of UCF’s drive, Bortles threw a pass deep that was intercepted by senior cornerback Demetri Goodson at the Baylor 4-yard line. Baylor was unable to convert and punted after a three-and-out. On the next play, Bortles threw another interception, this time to senior linebacker Eddie Lackey.
Baylor got the ball at the UCF 32, and Petty threw a 30 yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Levi Norwood on the next play. Linebacker Brody Trahan dropped the hold on the extra point, so Baylor only cut the lead to 14-13.
On the very next play, Johnson fumbled the ball and Baylor senior nickelback Sam Holl recovered at the UCF 19. Three plays later, Petty threw only his third interception of the season in the end zone to junior safety Brandon Alexander. A pass interference penalty by senior Baylor cornerback K.J Morton brought UCF to the 50. Two plays later, Hall took a screen pass by Bortles 50 yards to the house to put UCF ahead 21-13.
Baylor marched down the field on their next drive behind a first down run from Petty and a 32-yard bomb to freshman wide receiver Corey Coleman down the Baylor sideline to send the Bears into the red zone. Feeling pressure, Petty scrambled towards the end zone and flipped 360 degrees for a touchdown to bring Baylor to 21-20.
Another pass interference penalty by Morton set UCF up at the Baylor 42. Two plays later, Bortles found Hall once again for a 34-yard touchdown pass with only 44 seconds left in the half. Baylor kicker Aaron Jones missed a 45-yard field goal as the half ended.
Baylor and UCF each punted on their first possessions of the second half. Baylor drove to the Baylor 49 before finding sophomore wide receiver Jay Lee for a 50-yard pass that brought the Bears within the one-yard line. Petty would run in for another touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game at 28-28.
Baylor was able to answer right back on their next drive. Bortles converted one third down and a pass interference call on senior safety Ahmad Dixon converted another. A shot by Bortles to senior wide receiver Jeff Godfrey brought UCF into the red zone, where Bortles found Perriman for a 10-yard touchdown.
Baylor punted on their next drive and UCF took advantage. Bortles had a rush of 22 yards to bring UCF into the red zone before rushing 15 yards for a UCF touchdown. The lead grew to 42-28 with the score.
Baylor’s quick-strike offense showed their teeth in the next drive. A facemask penalty on UCF brought Baylor down to the UCF 30, where Petty found Fuller for a 28-yard reception to bring the Bears within the 10. Senior running back Glasco Martin punched in a nine-yard touchdown on the next play. UCF struck just as fast on the next drive. A Baylor penalty set up a 40-yard Johnson touchdown run to push UCF to 49-35.
Baylor had a three-and-out on their next possession and UCF milked the clock for over four minutes on the ensuing drive. A 17-yard Bortles pass to freshman running back William Stanback set up a 36-yard field goal for junior kicker Shawn Moffitt to push the UCF lead to 52-35 with only 4:38 remaining.
Petty compiled 64 all-purpose yards and a touchdown throw to Norwood on the next drive for Baylor to bring the lead down to 52-42. Baylor was unable to convert on the onside kick and Bortles took a knee to run the clock out.
“We caught a football team that was hot,” head football coach Art Briles said. “They played extremely well early. We tried to play catch up the whole game.”
Despite the loss, Baylor set the all-time NCAA record for most points in a 13-game season with 681 total points. The Bears also broke the Big 12 total yards record with 8,044 total yards of offense. Baylor was flagged for 17 penalties, second most in Fiesta Bowl history.
“I don’t know very many ball clubs that can win with 17 penalties in one game,” Dixon said. “What happened tonight is going to happen to you if you have 17 penalties against a team like that.”
Baylor finishes the season with a record of 11-2, including 8-1 in Big 12 conference play. This is the first BCS appearance in Baylor history.