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Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin catches the game-winning touchdown pass during the second half of the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Auburn Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
College football: Winston leads FSU over Auburn

College football: Seminoles rally to defeat Tigers, claim title.

First Published Jan 06 2014 11:26 pm • Last Updated Jan 07 2014 09:31 am

After a regular season filled with blowout victories and easy fourth quarters, Jameis Winston and Florida State showed they could close like champions, too.

No. 2 Auburn wobbled the top-ranked Seminoles by jumping out to an 18-point lead in the first half, and then put Florida State on the brink of defeat for the first time this season.

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Storylines Late rally saves ’Noles

Florida State QB Jameis Winston completes 6 of 7 passes for 77 yards on final drive.» FSU wins its first national title since ’99.» Auburn’s Tre Mason rushes for 195 yards in the loss.

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Winston responded with the drive of his life and a game-winning touchdown pass with 13 seconds left that topped everything else he has done in one of the most sensational debut seasons a college quarterback has ever had.

The Heisman Trophy winner led the Seminoles 80 yards in the final 79 seconds, flicking a 2-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin to give No. 1 Florida State a 34-31 victory against Auburn in the last BCS championship game Monday night.

"The last drive, that’s a great way to cap off our season," Winston said. "That’s the way we wanted to cap off our season."

The Bowl Championship Series went out with a bang, too, with one of the best title games in its 16-year history, right there with Texas 41, USC 38 at the Rose Bowl in 2006. That night it was Vince Young leading the Longhorns and capping a comeback by scooting into the end zone with 19 seconds left.

Now Winston is the Prince of Pasadena.

Next season the BCS will be replaced by a four-team playoff. Winston and the Seminoles should be contenders again after snapping the Southeastern Conference’s seven-year national title streak.

"The SEC is great football, I coached in that league for 13 years, I respect every bit of it," coach Jimbo Fisher said, "but there’s some other folks in this country that can play some football, too."

Florida State, which played in the first BCS championship games but had not been back since, was voted a unanimous No. 1 in the final AP Top 25. Auburn finished second.


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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 last drive.

"It was the best football game he’s played all year," Fisher said of Winston, "and I’ll tell you why, because for three quarters he was up and down and he fought."

Winston was 20 for 35 for 237 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes on his 20th birthday. He zipped the Seminoles down the field on the final drive, with a 49-yard catch and run from Rashad Greene.

"I was ready," Winston said. "I wanted to be in that situation because that’s what great quarterbacks do. That’s what the Tom Bradys, Peyton Mannings, Drew Brees, that’s what they do."

Florida State also got help from Auburn. A pass interference penalty in the end zone on Chris Davis on third-and-8 from the 10 gave Florida State a first down at the 2.

"Thought it was great defense. That’s all I can say," Davis said, adding, the officials "should have just let us play."

On the next play Winston threw high to the 6-foot-5 Benjamin for the touchdown.

"Once the ball is in the air on that post route, I’ve got to go get it, and I did," Benjamin said. "Simple as that."

There was no miracle finish this time for the turnaround Tigers, who went from 3-9 to SEC champions in their first season under coach Gus Malzahn. 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.

Florida State scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the teams combined for 24 in a breathtaking last 4:42.

"It felt storybook again," Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright said. "It really felt like we were going to bring it out again. We’re just on the other end of the stick. It’s usually us going out on the field and celebrating. It’s been a long time since we had an ‘L’ in this locker room."

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