Florida State's win streak ends with playoff disaster
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Jameis Winston and Florida State had a chance for a second straight national championship before their impressive run crashed in the Rose Bowl.
A season full of comebacks and narrow victories caught up to the Seminoles.
Winston helped Florida State stretch its win streak to a school-record 29 games, but their erratic play - specifically turnovers - led to the end of the perfect run with Thursday's 59-20 loss to Oregon in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs.
''It hurts (worse) than whatever you can imagine,'' Winston said after the game. ''We've got tons of great futures. No one likes to lose, man. I mean, losing is really not in my vocabulary, to be honest with you, but we fell short today.
''I just hope that we can learn from this because I (haven't) felt this way in a long time.''
It was much different last season, when Winston won the Heisman Trophy while powering FSU to the final BCS championship. But the Seminoles (13-1) finished this season ranked No. 105 in turnover margin with 32 turnovers and 26 takeaways.
They had more turnover trouble against Oregon, and it was too much to overcome against the talented Ducks. Florida State turned it over on five of its first six possessions in the second half, and Oregon scored touchdowns on all five of those ensuing drives.
Florida State was able to bounce back from deficits and win tight games all season long. The Seminoles trailed in nine of the first 13 games and won seven by single digits. Coach Jimbo Fisher and his players eventually embraced the personality of a never-give-up team that always found a way to win despite adversity. The defense was always able to respond after offensive miscues and vice versa.
''I mean, we made history,'' defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said. ''It was something that had never been done in Florida State history, and we did it. Coach Jimbo constantly talks about history, and when you come back at your reunion, you'll be able to sit down and talk about all these great moments you've experienced while being here.
''For it to come to an end, it's definitely a bitter taste in our mouth.''
In 2013, the Seminoles rolled to 723 points and set school records for total offensive yards, touchdowns scored and interceptions. FSU averaged an ACC-record 51.6 points per game last season, but just 33.7 in 2014.
Winston remained one of the best players in the college football in 2014, but the offense bogged down after losing its top two running backs, two starting receivers and a starting center. Four defensive starters from the championship team were drafted into the NFL before the 2014 season.
Receiver Rashad Greene set school records for career receptions and yards receiving, and freshman Travis Rudolph emerged as the No. 2 receiver. Freshman Dalvin Cook blossomed into the top running back as the season wound down, but upperclassmen struggled on both sides of the ball. Senior running back Karlos Williams was supposed to be a Heisman candidate. Junior cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby were both thought to be possible first-round NFL picks in 2014, but each underperformed. Defensive linemen Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman were inconsistent.
The Seminoles ranked No. 51 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 25.6 points per game.
The issues on the field were compounded by a student code of conduct investigation and hearing for Winston. He was cleared of accusations involving an alleged sexual assault two years ago shortly after the ACC title game. Prosecutor Willie Meggs made a similar decision a year ago when he decided not to criminally charge Winston, citing a lack of evidence.
The Seminoles remain stocked with talent, but could lose double-digit players to the NFL, including Winston. The redshirt sophomore said he plans to play baseball for FSU in the spring, but did not say he wouldn't enter the draft.
Florida State did not reach its ultimate goal, but did put together one of the greatest stretches the game has seen.
''It was a great run,'' Fisher said. ''What our guys accomplished and what they've been able to play and do and the quality of games in which they've been able to play in, it was an extremely great run.
''Hopefully, we can put together another one.''