January 7

College football title game: Nailbiter for the 'Noles

Florida State scores a touchdown on a 2-yard pass with 13 seconds left to get past Auburn, 34-31, in the final BCS championship game.

By RALPH D. RUSSO
The Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. — 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.

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Florida State's Jameis Winston celebrates with The Coaches' Trophy after the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Auburn Monday in Pasadena, Calif. Florida State won 34-31.

The Associated Press

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Florida State players celebrate after the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Auburn Monday in Pasadena, Calif. Florida State won 34-31.

The Associated Press

RECENT CHAMPS

2014: Florida State

2013: Alabama

2012: Alabama

2011: Auburn

2010: Alabama

2009: Florida

2008: LSU

2007: Florida

2006: Texas

2005: USC
 

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 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 Levonte 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 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.

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.

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