Florida State 34, Auburn 31
Well on the day after the night of the last BCS national championships after a 16-year run, all you BCS, and SEC haters out there, have a great day.
After at least an eight-year dominance over the national championship game of US college Division I football, the SEC took a bit of a beating last night at the Rose Bowl in Pasedena.
They did not win it.
Last year they blew it open when Alabama dismantled Notre Dame, the year before Alabama did it against LSU. In 2010, last night’s ‘loser’ Auburn won it. Alabama won it the year before in 2009, while the Florida Gators won the BCS in both 2006 and 2008 with LSU getting it in between (2007). Florida won it twice recently too.
All of that SEC dominance has left a lot of people questioning the validity of the BCS process. Last night, a lot of people were probably laughing at it; the #1 ranked FSU Seminoles came from behind to upend the Auburn Tigers and for once the college football national title is taken by a team not in the ranks of the Southeastern Conference.
Auburn, the heavy underdogs going into last night’s game, had the Seminoles down 21-3 just before the half. FSU scored a throwing touchdown to close the gap to 21-10 at the half, but Auburn dominated the entire first half and FSU made mistake after mistake, very un-FSU like.
FSU regrouped in the second half and found their game just in time and became the 1st non-SEC team to win the BCS since Texas did it in 2005 (which by the way may have been the last time we were treated to a championship game as good as last night’s was).
Even celebrity golfer Jack Nikolaus got into it a little bit.
Check that. It was the kind of game that a grandkid told his grandparents about. At least, that’s what Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary did afterward as he embraced Jack and Barbara Nicklaus on the confetti-strewn field.
The greatest golfer of all-time wore an FSU cap and a proud smile as he posed for family photos with O’Leary. And if you looked hard enough, you’d swear he was near tears.
Auburn fans know the feeling. With just 79 seconds remaining in the game, the Tigers held a four-point lead against an FSU team favored by double digits. Hold on to that lead and Auburn wins its second national title in four years and extends the SEC streak to an eight-peat.
Instead, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who had played like Ja-miss for large chunks of the game, led the Seminoles from their own 20-yard line to Auburn’s end zone. The game was one of the closest games of the entire bowl season. In years past, that wasn’t the case.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who’s audacious fake punt call with less than five minutes left in the second quarter, and with the Noles down 21-3, was the momentum changer of the game.
FSU later scored on the drive. We haven’t seen anything like that in a BCS title game in forever, and part of the good news now is that there will never be another BCS title game again as the NCAA adapts a new playoff format for the top four teams beginning next season.
And there was a missed field goal by Auburn, that otherwise assuming that everything else played out the same, would have tied the game and sent it to overtime, haven’t seen that possibility in the title game in forever either.
The fourth quarter alone had five scores and three lead changes. It had a 100-yard kickoff return by FSU’s Kermit Whitfield. It had the kind of drama that left Seminoles defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. in a postgame daze.
“I’m speechless,” he said. “I’m just lost.”
As the rest of his teammates stood on a stage at midfield for the trophy presentation, Edwards stood 20 yards away, by himself, trying to comprehend what had just happened. He looked at the end zone scoreboard and shook his head in disbelief.
“We showed the world we had the answer,” Edwards said.
And the answer was Winston, who, as it turns out, is forced to figure out a way to lead FSU’s offense down the field in late-game situations on a regular basis. Every week, said Edwards, the Seminoles’ coaches put 1:15 on the clock at practice, tell the first-team defense to play like it counts, and then dare Winston to engineer a score.
“I was ready,” Winston said afterward. “I wanted to be in that situation.”
FSU wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin made the game-winning reception,: “[It] just makes it a memory we’ll never forget.”