This hasn’t been the easiest season off the football field for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who was involved in a sexual assault charge, which was later dropped.
On the turf it’s been another matter as the redshirt freshman capped off a Heisman Trophy-campaign with a victory in the recently-contested Bowl Championship Series title game that snapped the Southeastern Conference’s seven-year dynasty.
In dramatic fashion, Winston’s two-yard pass to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (54 yards and four receptions) on a slant pattern and 13 seconds left gave the top-ranked Seminoles a come-from-behind 34-31 win over No. 2 Auburn as 94,208 witnesses watched at the Rose Bowl.
“We didn’t come here for nothing,’’ said Winston, who completed 20 of 35 passes for 237 yards. “We didn’t play well in the first and second quarter. But when I looked at my teammates in the eye and asked them if they’re strong, and they said they’re strong. I said I’m strong. Let’s go out there and do it.”
The BCS era began in 1998 when Tennessee defeated Florida State and its legendary Head Coach Bobby Bowden, who was in attendance, and while there were some duds, two of the best were played in the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena including Texas’ 41-38 classic over USC.
Next college football season will introduce a four-team playoff which has been talked about for some time, and is designed to be more fair.
Minutes before Winston’s game-winning 80-yard, seven-play drive, it appeared the Tigers (12-2) would claim their second BCS crown when running back Tre Mason (game-high 195 yards on 34 rushes) bulldozed his way into the end zone after a punishing 37-yard run and 1:19 showing that gave Auburn a 31-27 lead.
Mason’s dash came after track star Levonte Whitfield returned a kickoff 100 yards as Florida State (14-0) leaped ahead 27-24 with 4:31 left. This was the second of three touchdowns the Seminoles (385 total net yards) tallied in the fourth quarter.
Roberto Aguayo’s 35-yard field goal gave the Seminoles a 3-0 advantage with just under 10 minutes left in the first quarter, but the Tigers (449 total yards) scored three touchdowns and led 21-3 with 5:01 showing in the second quarter.
Aguayo’s 41-yard effort ended a 67-yard, 11-play excursion and narrowed Auburn’s advantage to 21-13 with 6:05 showing in the third quarter.
When Marshall drove the Tigers 69 yards on 13 plays, Cody Parkey’s 22-yard field goal pushed the Tigers ahead 24-20 and 4:42 left in the fourth quarter.
After Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall (14 of 27 for 217 yards and one interception) hit Mason with a 12-yard screen pass it became 7-3 and 3:07 left in the initial quarter, and Marshall’s 50-yard strike to wide receiver Melvin Ray down the middle lifted the Tigers to an 11-point lead.
When defensive lineman Angelo Blackson tackled Winston and jarred the ball free which linebacker Anthony Swain recovered deep inside Florida State territory, Marshall capped the 27-yard march with a four-yard bootleg that made it 21-3.
But Winston gathered the troops and drove the Seminoles 66 yards on 11 plays which running back Devonta Freeman (11 carries for 73 yards) climaxed when he scored on a three-yard burst and 1:28 remaining before the half, trimming Auburn’s lead to 21-10.
Winston’s 11-yard toss to wide receiver Chad Abram got Florida State within 21-20 and 10:55 left in the final quarter which set the stage for a wild finish.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.