The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Sports

January 7, 2014

FSU scores with 13 seconds left to claim BCS title

PASADENA, Calif. — PASADENA, Calif. — Jameis Winston and Florida State faced down adversity for the first time this season, and showed they could take a punch if that's what it took to win a national championship.

The Heisman Trophy winner 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 BCS championship game on Monday night.

"There's a lot of heart and guts down in Tallahassee, too," coach Jimbo Fisher said.

The Bowl Championship Series went out with a bang, with one of the best championship games in its 16-year history. And the Southeastern Conference's seven-year winning streak in college football's biggest game was snapped.

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, Benjamin, for the touchdown in traffic.

There was no miracle finish this time for the turnaround Tigers. They tossed the ball around on one final play, but it ended with Florida State jumping on a fumble and the Seminoles sprinting onto the field under a storm of garnet and gold confetti.

Tre Mason gave Auburn (12-2) a 31-27 lead with a 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left after Kermit Whitfield 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, and Nick Marshall threw two touchdown passes for the Tigers.

"I told them in the locker room we put together the biggest turnaround in the history of college football. We were on the brink of making it one of those magical seasons," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.

Winston was 20-for-35 for 237 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Florida State hadn't been challenged like this all season, winning by an average of 42 points.

The redshirt freshman, who turned 20 Monday, told his teammates: "I said 'Guys, we didn't come here for no reason.' I said 'Y'all, this is ours, man.'"

The Seminoles were down 21-3 in the first half, and wobbling, but never fell over.

And now Florida State is national champion for the first time since 1999, the first team to win it after being down at halftime.

Winston was jumpy against a strong Auburn pass rush, led by Dee Ford. He was sacked four times.

The Seminoles cut it to 21-10 with a late touchdown in the second quarter and chipped into Auburn's lead with a 41-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo with 6:05 left in the third.

Meanwhile, Florida State had found some answers to Auburn's spread offense. A holding penalty that wiped out a long pass also helped keep the Tigers scoreless in the third quarter, and the Seminoles began the fourth with P.J. Williams intercepting Marshall's pass and setting up Florida State at its 38.

When Winston tossed in the flats to Chad Abram, who hurdled over a tackler on the way to an 11-yard touchdown, the lead was 21-19. Florida State was considering going for two to tie, but Devonta Freeman was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and that pushed the extra point back 15 yards and forced the Seminoles to kick and make it 21-20.

Auburn responded with its best drive since the second quarter, mixing runs by Mason and Marshall with one big pass to Ricardo Louis. But it stalled at the 6, and Cody Parkey added a 22-yard field goal to make it 24-20 with 4:42 left.

During Winston's record-breaking season, filled with blowouts and fourth quarters spent watching from the sideline, he never faced a situation in which he had to drive his team to a winning score.

Now he had a chance to add that last line to his remarkable resume — until Whitfield handled it for him.

Whitfield broke through a seam around the 30 and hit the sideline at full speed. Fisher ran down the other sideline yelling "Go! Go!" with Winston chasing behind pumping his arms and slapping his coach on the back. Florida State was on top, but Auburn was not done.

Mason and Marshall went to work, driving Auburn into Florida State territory, and Auburn's Heisman finalist, Mason, finished it off by bowling over Florida State safety Jalen Ramsey on the way to the end zone.

Auburn billed itself as a team of destiny, having gone from 3-9 to SEC champs under first-year coach Malzahn — with the help of some miraculous finishes.

But for much of the first half, team destiny, the 10-point underdog, was dominating.

Marshall flipped into the flats for Mason, who followed a few wipe-out blocks and zipped into the end zone for a 12-yard score with 3:07 left in the first quarter. Florida State trailed for the first time since Sept. 28 against Boston College.

The hole got deeper.

With Florida State's linebackers and safeties peeking into the backfield again, Auburn broke another receiver free down the middle. Marshall threw a strike this time to Melvin Ray, who went 50 yards for his first career touchdown and a 14-3 lead.

Meanwhile, for maybe the first time this season, Winston looked rattled. After completing three of his first four passes, he went 1-for-7, including a simple short throw that sailed high and missed its target by at least 10 yards. Fisher could be seen yelling to his coaches that they needed to calm down Winston.

Auburn's defense certainly didn't look as if it ranked 89th in the country in yards allowed per game. Ford was getting pressure on Winston, Chris Davis defended three passes and the Tigers' D was playing like so many other SEC defenses that have controlled so many other BCS championship games during the conference's reign over college football.

Ben Bradley and Angelo Blackson sandwiched Winston as he tried to tuck and run, and the ball came loose. Auburn recovered at Florida State's 27, and soon after Marshall swept in from 4 yards out for a 21-3 lead with 5:01 left in the first half.

Florida State finally came alive with the help of some trickery and some old-fashioned want-to from Winston. Facing fourth-and-4 in their own territory, the Seminoles faked the punt and ran a reverse to Karlos Williams that went for 7 yards.

Then Winston asserted himself in not the typical way for the most efficient passer in the country. On third-and-7, he broke free of the pocket, stiff-armed past one Auburn tackler and went for 21 yards to the 3. Freeman plunged into the end zone on the next play to make it 21-10 with 1:28 left in the half.

Fisher patted Winston on the helmet as the quarterback shook his head, as if to say, "I'm better now."

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Pendleton Heights, Frankton to meet for net title

    Pendleton Heights and Frankton advanced to today's Madison County Championship title match after posting very different victories. The Lady Arabian tennis team advanced after defeating the Alexandria Tigers 4-1. For Frankton, it came down to a No. 1 singles tie-breaker to put away Lapel.

    April 18, 2014

  • SPT - HB0418 - PHHS vs Alex - 017 Arabians hold off Alex to reach semifinals Good teams don't need much help. That didn't stop Pendleton Heights from accepting a little aid from Alexandria in the second round of the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament on Thursday.

    April 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • Panthers claw way into softball semis If only Elwood's Jessie Noone had missed the team bus, Thursday's game in the Madison County Softball Tournament would have been more competitive.

    April 17, 2014

  • Ravens drove Manchester to avoid sweep NORTH MANCHESTER — The Anderson University baseball team defeated Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference leader Manchester University 9-5 on Wednesday at Gratz Field. Andrew Eiler led the Raven offense with three hits, three runs and an RBI, including one of four home runs the visitors hit.

    April 17, 2014

  • Elwood, Liberty Christian advance in county softball tournament The 2014 Madison County Softball tournament got off to a wild start at Liberty Christian on Wednesday night as Elwood and the host Liberty Christian Lions advanced with victories.

    April 17, 2014

  • SPT - HB0417 - Nick Muller - 05 Bulldogs, Indians impress in openers Lapel and Anderson have very different histories in the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament.

    April 16, 2014 5 Photos

  • SPT - HB0417 - Pendleton v Mad Grant 2 Eagles, Arabians move to second round Frankton got off to an uneven start, falling behind 4-3 and 6-4, but rallied for a 14-6 triumph over Alexandria in the first round of the Madison County Softball Tournament here Wednesday. In the second contest, Pendleton Heights topped Madison-Grant 2-1 in a game where both runs and hits were at a premium.

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • Rick Bramwell: Improving weather should aid morels When I looked at my wilted daffodils Tuesday morning, I knew this would be a setback for morels. The long-range forecast through April 29 calls for near normal temperatures and above normal precipitation. This is good news for the blacks and grays.

    April 16, 2014

  • SPL - PT041014 - Ken de la Bastide column - Ken sig Ken de la Bastide: Hunter-Reay's blunder proves costly A lack of patience cost Ryan Hunter-Reay and teammate James Hinchcliffe a chance at victory last weekend in the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Long Beach.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0416 - tennis file - 14 Many girls tennis teams return top talent With spring sports getting off to a good start thanks to some spring-like weather last week, local girls tennis teams are taking to the court.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo