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Pictured: Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) holds the Coaches Trophy after defeating the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
PASADENA, Calif. (AP & Seminoles.com) - Jameis Winston threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left and No. 1 Florida State beat No. 2 Auburn 34-31 to win the last BCS national championship game on Monday night.
Winston struggled much of the night but was near perfect when the Seminoles (14-0) needed it most, going 6 for 7 for 77 yards on the game-winning 80-yard drive. A pass interference penalty on Auburn's Chris Davis gave Florida State a first-and-goal at the 2 and on the next play Winston hit his big receiver for the touchdown.
"I said this from Day 1 in spring ball. These kids are special," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "This group never faltered. They wanted to be elite. They wanted to go to the top and there's so much character in this group."
Tre Mason had given Auburn (12-2) a 31-27 lead with a 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left after Kermit Whitfield had put Florida State in the lead for the first time since the first quarter with a 100-yard kickoff return to make it 27-24 with 4:31 left.
Mason ran for 195 yards.
Winston was 20 for 35 for 237 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
Nick Marshall ran for a touchdown and threw scoring passes to Mason and Melvin Ray in the first half, and Auburn led 21-13 after three quarters.
All-America kicker Roberto Aguayo's second field goal of the night accounted for the only third-quarter points for either team as both defenses took charge after a frenetic first half.
The powerful Seminoles trailed by 18 points in the second quarter and 21-10 at halftime, but picked up momentum in the third quarter with solid defensive play and improvements by Winston, who was fighting a case of big-game jitters.
The Heisman Trophy-winning freshman went 6 for 15 for 62 yards in the first half on his 20th birthday, with a key fumble setting up Marshall's 4-yard TD run 5:01 before halftime. Winston also led a 66-yard scoring drive late in the first half and consistently moved Florida State in the third quarter - but with only three points to show for it.
After trailing for the first time in any game since Sept. 28, Florida State needed a big finish to become the first team to rally from a halftime deficit to win the BCS title game.
Marshall, Winston's relatively unheralded counterpart, looked sharp in the Auburn backfield. Auburn was the nation's top rushing team, but coach Gus Malzahn showed the SEC champs can fling it as well while racking up 232 yards of offense in the first half.
Mason caught a 12-yard TD screen pass in the first quarter, and Ray ran alone down the middle with a 50-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Devonta Freeman had a 3-yard scoring run with 1:28 left in the half for Florida State, which faced its largest deficit and first halftime deficit of the season.
Auburn's 85-yard drive early in the second quarter ended with a TD catch for Ray, the former minor league baseball player from Tallahassee who had just four receptions in the regular season. Florida State's Jalen Ramsey failed to pick up Ray all alone down the middle. Ray juked a defender near the goal line and scored as the Tigers' fans rocked the Rose Bowl stands with cheers.
Auburn's Angelo Blackson then swatted the ball out of Winston's hand on a run moments after the Tigers missed a field goal, and Marshall finished the drive by turning the corner on Florida State's defense for a score.
A successful fake punt finally sparked the Seminoles moments later. Winston made a 21-yard run complete with a vicious stiff-arm to Auburn's Kris Frost, and Freeman scored on the next play, trimming Auburn's halftime lead to 21-10.
Auburn was making its second BCS championship game appearance after beating Oregon for the title four years ago behind Heisman winner Cam Newton. The Tigers went 3-9 last season, but Malzahn quickly returned them to the national spotlight.
BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP – FINAL GAME NOTES
January 6, 2014 @ The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Cal.
Recapping A Championship Season
Winston Delivers In The Clutch
On the heels of his least-productive half of football this season, Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston cemented his offensive MVP performance with a brilliant second half, delivering the Seminoles a 34-31 victory and the program’s third National Championship:
Abram Comes Through Again
Senior fullback Chad Abram’s third touchdown reception of the season – an 11-yard pass from Jameis Winston with 10:55 remaining in the game – sparked FSU’s second half comeback as the Seminoles pulled within 21-20. It was Abram’s eighth reception of the season.
Aguayo Makes His Mark In First Season
Redshirt freshman kicker and Groza Award winner Roberto Aguayo closed out his first season with a number of significant accomplishments:
Freeman Breaks 1,000-yard Rushing Drought
Redshirt junior tailback Devonta Freeman became the first Seminole running back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a single season since Warrick Dunn in 1996. Freeman’s 4-yard gain with four minutes remaining in the third quarter pushed his season total to exactly 1,000 yards. He finished with a team-leading 73 yards on 11 carries and finishes with 1,016 yards on the season. ... His 3-yard touchdown run with 1:28 remaining in the first half was his 14th of the season and the 30th of his career, moving him into a tie for third on FSU’s all-time rushing touchdown list with Amp Lee.
Greene Leads Receiving Corps
Junior wide receiver Rashad Greene has a history of showing up big at the most important moments and his effort against Auburn was no exception:
Benjamin Joins 1,000-yard Club
Held without a reception in the first half, redshirt sophomore receiver Kelvin Benjamin was a force in the second half with four receptions for 54 yards, highlighted by his game-winning 2-yard TD reception with 13 seconds remaining. His 21-yard reception in the fourth quarter, leading up to the Seminoles’ second touchdown of the night, pushed him past the 1,000-yard receiving mark this seaso:
Williams Collects Record 26th Interception of Year
Sophomore cornerback P.J. Williams’ interception with 12:56 remaining in the game, set up FSU’s touchdown drive which pulled the Seminoles within 21-20. It was the third of the season from Williams, who was named the game’s defensive MVP. More significantly it was the 26th of the year by the Seminoles, breaking the single-season record of 25 which was shared by the 1968 and 1991 FSU teams.
A New National Scoring Record
With its 34-31 victory, Florida State set the new single-season FBS scoring record with 723 points. That eclipsed the previous mark of 716 set by Oklahoma over 14 games in 2008.
Odds & Ends
Senior linebacker Telvin Smith finished with a career-high 15 tackles…FSU is the first team to trail at the half and win the BCS National Championship…The ‘Noles are also just the third team to win the title after trailing at the end of three quarters…Noles are the third team in the BCS era to rally from a double-digit deficit to win the National Championship…The Noles’ 18-point deficit is the most a team has ever overcome to win the BCS National Championship.
Trailing? It’s Been Awhile
When Auburn’s Tre Mason scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall with 3:07 remaining in the first quarter, Florida State found itself facing a deficit for the first time in 583 minutes and 42 seconds. The Seminoles had not trailed in a game since fullback Chad Abram caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston with 1:49 remaining in the second quarter at Boston College on Sept. 28. Abram’s score tied the game at 10-10.
Slow Starts Not Uncommon
Though Florida State has not trailed at the end of the first quarter since the fourth game of the season, the Seminoles haven’t been lighting up the scoreboard in the first quarter recently. FSU has managed just two field goals in the opening quarter over its last three games – at Florida and tonight against Auburn – and was shut out in the opening quarter against Duke in the ACC Championship Game. The Seminoles warmed up to defeat Florida 37-7 and Duke 45-7. … Despite boasting the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense, the ‘Noles have now scored fewer than 10 points in the first quarter eight times this season.
A Most Distinguished Honorary Captain
Legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, the winningest coach in FBS history, never had an opportunity to lead the Seminoles in a game at the tradition-steeped Rose Bowl. Bowden, however, represented the Seminoles as the honorary captain for the BCS National Championship game. He was joined at midfield for the coin toss by Auburn legend Bo Jackson.
Captains for the Game
Captains for the game are seniors Bryan Stork, Telvin Smith, Kenny Shaw and Lamarcus Joyner…The Seminoles won the toss, deferred to the second half and chose to defend the North end zone.
Former Seminole Stars in the House
A star-studded cast of former Seminoles are in attendance today, including sideline guests Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, Terrell Buckley, Andre Wadsworth, Jamie Dukes, Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel. … a number of other standouts made the trek to Pasadena in support of the ‘Noles, including Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Scott Bentley, Darnell Dockett, Leon Washington, Bryant McFadden, Alex Barron, Ray Willis, Travis Johnson, Chris Thompson and Tarlos Thomas.