By Jeff Shearer
ATLANTA- Watching Will Hastings rack up catches and yards in Auburn’s two-minute offense, you would have never known he was running out of gas.
“I was pretty dead on that drive,” said Hastings, whose three consecutive receptions, plus a targeting penalty, moved Auburn 75 yards from its own 11 to UCF’s 14 in just 36 seconds.
“It was our two-minute drill,” he said. “We have certain plays to call in that. He kept hitting me on them. I just tried to keep catching them and keep going.”
Auburn scored three plays later to pull within 7 with 4:12 remaining. After UCF missed a field goal with 2:18 left, quarterback Jarrett Stidham looked to Hastings again.
“I got off my seat, and we all went out there and were jacked up and ready to go,” Hastings said.
On fourth-and-8 from Auburn’s 23, Stidham hit Hastings for 12 yards to preserve the Tigers’ chances. On the next play, Auburn crossed midfield when Stidham found No. 33 once more for an 18-yard gain.
“He did a good job of getting open,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They were playing two-man and Jarrett just kept finding him over the middle and just did a really good job."
Auburn advanced to UCF’s 21, but an interception in the end zone with 24 seconds left secured UCF’s undefeated season in a 34-27 victory Monday in the 50th Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
“We did a really good job at the end when we had to go into the two-minute drill,” said Stidham, who threw for 331 yards. “We have practiced that all year and haven’t been put in that situation until now. It was good to see what we’ve practiced comes to life. We just have to execute better.”
Hastings scored Auburn’s first touchdown on a 26-yard reception after Noah Igbinoghene’s 72-yard return to start the second half, tying the game at 13-13.
Hastings finished with six receptions for 117 yards, both career highs. The defeat, he said, would provide motivation for his senior season.
“The feeling of that loss, and knowing that we could have done more,” Hasting said. “Taking it into the offseason, working hard every day and having that feeling in my body that we lost, and just keep pushing.”
Hastings’ touchdown was his fourth of the season, No. 5 in his career.
“It was a great season overall,” Hastings said. “Obviously, we wanted to get 11 wins. If I could take away anything, it would be I wish we could have pulled this one out, and that we’re going to come back even better next year.”
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) January 1, 2018
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer