The game did not start out as exciting as other Bowl Championship Series title games, however after 16 years of existence, the BCS went out with a bash.
Trailing the Auburn Tigers 31-27 with only 1:19 left on the clock, Florida State’s Jameis Winston led the Seminoles 80 yards in seven plays, throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin for a 34-31 win. It came on Winston’s 20th birthday.
There were 13 seconds left in the game after Benjamin’s touchdown catch, which made me wonder if the game was actually over after the Tigers’ two improbable wins this season.
The Tigers were part of two remarkable plays this season that allowed them to reach this BCS title game. The first came Nov. 16 against Georgia when Ricardo Louis scored on a deflected 73-yard pass from Nick Marshall on fourth and 18 with 25 seconds left for a 43-38 victory. The spectacular play, during which the deflected ball sailed over Louis’ shoulder and into his hands in the open field, appeared to be one for the ages.
That play was the chips with Iron Bowl being the dip.
In what will go down as one of the surreal moments in college football history, Chris Davis returned a missed field-goal attempt more than 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play to give the Tigers a 34-28 win over then-No. 1 and two-time defending national champion Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30.
Auburn looked like a team of destiny all year with those winning plays; instead unbeaten Florida State completed its dominance through the 2013 season. Winston led the Seminoles to a field goal on their opening possession. On their next five Seminole possessions, which included turnovers and drop passes I was prepared to congratulate the Southeastern Conference on its supremacy because the Tigers had a 21-3 lead at the half.
The winning play for FSU was the Benjamin touchdown catch. The game-changing play was a fake punt. With the help of the fake punt that kept a drive alive late in the first half, Winston drove the Seminoles for their first touchdown. “We did not come here for no reason, this is ours. We had to go back and play Florida State football. We did that and we are champions together,” Winston stated. The Seminoles came into the game outscoring opponents by large margins and won every game by at least 14 points. (They only beat Boston College by 14 points)The call was the band-aid needed to stop the bleeding.
The Tigers looked composed after building an 18-point lead, but in the fourth quarter, after the Seminoles played comeback all night, Winston sandwiched two touchdown drives around Kermit Whitfield’s 100-yard kickoff return. “Our defense was tremendous in the second half. We always believed in ourselves,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher stated. The Tigers and Seminoles met for the second time in a bowl game, with Florida State winning 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl after the 1988 season.
The SEC had an opportunity to extend its run of seven consecutive BCS titles if Auburn won. The conference also had two more BCS titles with victories by Tennessee after the 1998 season (Fiesta Bowl) and LSU after 2003 (Sugar Bowl). The streaking on the field and system of the BCS is over now and the celebration of a playoff system will kickoff next season.
Let us not blow out the candles on the cake just yet. The Seminoles were on the verge of not enjoying a slice before the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Winston was cleared of allegations that he raped a fellow student in December 2012. Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs announced Dec. 5 that there was not enough evidence to go forward with the case, one that has raised questions about the thoroughness of the investigation and the response by the Tallahassee police to the allegations. The accuser is planning to file a civil suit against the Florida State quarterback and the Tallahassee Police Department.
Florida State won its third national championship and first since the 1999 season, when it beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.