Jameis Winston, Florida State complete perfect season with BCS title win over Auburn
There is a new team of destiny in college football, and it resides in Tallahassee, Fla.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston threw a two-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to Kelvin Benjamin -- who made a leaping catch -- to lift Florida State to a dramatic 34-31 win over Auburn in the final BCS championship game. Winston completed 20-of-35 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns to help the Seminoles rally from an 18-point deficit and secure their first national title since 1999.
The Tigers -- who had made a remarkable turnaround this year under new coach Gus Malzahn -- finished the season 12-2.
The first half went about as poorly as it possibly could have for Florida State. The Seminoles took a 3-0 lead on kicker Roberto Aguayo's 35-yard field goal early in the first quarter, but they punted on their next three possessions. Auburn, meanwhile, was rolling. The Tigers led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter, and by the time they forced a Winston fumble and recovered on Florida State's 27-yard line midway through the second, they had extended their lead to 14-3. Six plays later, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall rushed around left end for a four-yard touchdown that put the Tigers up 21-3.
Following a fake punt on the ensuing possession, however, the Seminoles finally reached the end zone on Devonta Freeman's three-yard touchdown run with 1:28 left in the half. That made the score 21-10, and provided a bit of hope for Florida State following a lopsided opening 30 minutes.
The Seminoles' offense came out a bit more alive in the third quarter, outgaining Auburn (96 yards to 45) and drilling a 41-yard field goal to slice the deficit to eight points. In the fourth quarter, madness ensued. Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams intercepted a Marshall pass with 13 minutes to play, and the Seminoles capitalized on the turnover with an 11-yard touchdown toss from Winston to Chad Abram. Florida State needed a two-point conversion to tie the game, but a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Freeman pushed the ball back 15 yards. Coach Jimbo Fisher opted to kick the PAT, and the Tigers led 21-20 with 10:55 remaining.
After Auburn kicker Cody Parker hit a 22-yard field goal, Seminoles freshman Levonte Whitfield lit a fire under his teammates. He broke free for a 100-yard kick-return touchdown to give Florida State a 27-24 advantage. Tigers tailback Tre Mason -- who ran for 195 yards on 34 carries -- responded with an impressive 37-yard scoring run to give Auburn a 31-27 lead.
A little more than a minute remained on the clock. Winston and the Seminoles had one final chance, and they drove 80 yards for the winning touchdown. Ultimately, after a pass interference call in the end zone on Tigers cornerback Chris Davis, Winston hit Benjamin for the decisive score and capped Florida State's undefeated season.
Auburn was dubbed a team of destiny following miraculous victories over Georgia (on Ricardo Louis' 73-yard Hail Mary catch) and Alabama (on Davis' 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown). The Tigers' loss on Monday night should take nothing away from an improbable SEC title-winning campaign on the heels of last season's 3-9 (0-8 SEC) disaster.
The Seminoles are worthy national champions. Winston headlined perhaps the most talented roster in the country, and Florida State's title reclaims a bit of conference pride for the ACC: The Seminoles snapped the SEC's vaunted streak of seven straight BCS titles. Benjamin's game-winning touchdown happened in the same end zone in which Texas quarterback Vince Young ran for the winning score when the Longhorns beat USC in the 2005 title game. The Longhorns were the last non-SEC team to hoist the crystal trophy.