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Florida State Wins National Championship With Fourth Quarter Rally

Harry How/Getty Images

The BCS era came to an end with one of the best games in history as No. 1 Florida State rallied for the game-winning touchdown with just 13 seconds left to secure a 34-31 win over No. 2 Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game.

Auburn jumped out to a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter only to see the Seminoles respond with 17 unanswered points to pull within one. But that was just setting the stage for the fourth quarter drama in which the lead changed hands three times in the final five minutes.  Following a Tiger field goal, Florida State return man Levonte Whitfield returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to put the Seminoles up 27-24 with 4:31 to play. No stranger to playing from behind, Auburn coolly drove 75 yards in eight plays and just over three minutes to retake the lead. But, after struggling much of the night, Heisman winner Jameis Winston took the Seminoles on his shoulders, going 6-of-7 for 77 yards on an 80-yard drive and throwing the game-winning score with just 13 seconds remaining. Winston threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in the win, with both scores coming in the fourth quarter.

For much of the night, it seemed like Auburn’s run as a “team of destiny” might continue. After giving up an early field goal, the Tigers rolled off three straight touchdowns, stymied the FSU offense and held the lead until late in the fourth quarter. And even when trailing, it looked like their luck had come again when running back Tre Mason, the hero of the SEC championship game, broke a 37-yard touchdown run with just 1:19 to play. But that left Winston and the Seminoles just enough time to drive the field and bring the Tigers’ magical season to an end.

A few game notes:

  • This is the third national championship for Florida State and the first for coach Jimbo Fisher.
  • Jameis Winston is just the third player since 1950 to win the Heisman Trophy and the national championship in the same season (Matt Leinart, 2004 and Cam Newton, 2010).
  • The 18-point deficit is the largest ever overcome in a BCS championship.
  • Auburn is the first team in history to lose a BCS title game after leading at halftime.
  • Auburn’s Tre Mason rushed for 195 yards and a touchdown in the loss. His 195 yards are second in BCS history behind Vince Young’s 200-yard effort in the 2006 championship game.
  • The Tigers’ loss snaps the SEC’s record of seven straight national champions.
  • Coming into the game, Florida State’s strength of schedule was the worst of any BCS title game team in the last ten years. The next three lowest strength of schedule teams (2006 Ohio State, 2007 Ohio State and 2009 Texas) all lost by 14+ points to SEC opponents.
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