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Jameis Winston, Florida State pulls off a perfect ending against Auburn during BCS championship

10:04 AM, Jan 7, 2014   |    comments
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PASADENA, Calif. (USA TODAY) - The Bowl Championship Series is dead.

And the Southeastern Conference's stranglehold on college football's national championship has been snuffed.

Top-ranked Florida State of the Atlantic Coast Conference completed a perfect season, rallying past No. 2 Auburn of the SEC 34-31 on Monday night at the Rose Bowl.

It was a frenetic finish to close an era with four lead changes over the final 4:42.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston hit Kelvin Benjamin with a 2-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left to deliver the Seminoles.

Winston (20 of 35 passing, 237 yards, two TDs) was 6-for-7 for 77 yards on the final drive.

He was named Most Valuable Player.

BOX SCORE: Florida State 34, Auburn 31

"Jameis grew up unbelievably tonight," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He struggled, but tonight's probably the best football game he's ever played. Because he struggled early. And that's what big-time players do when the money's on the line, they can suck it up in the fourth quarter and do what they have to do."

Winston, a redshirt freshman, settled down at the most vital time of the season.

"I said 'guys, we didn't come here for no reason.'" Winston said. "I said 'guys, this is ours man.' All the adversity we went through the first few quarters, it was ours to take."

For the fans too.

"FSU, FSU," chanted Seminoles rooters in the waning moments, replacing the familiar "SEC, SEC," refrain of the past seven seasons. The SEC had won seven straight BCS titles.

It was extremely close to eight.

Running back Tre Mason's 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 remaining gave Auburn a 31-27 edge. Mason ran for 195 yards on 34 carries

FSU's Kermit Whitfield had returned a kickoff 100 yards for a go-ahead TD with 4:31 remaining.

Winston wasn't in sync early. Still, he sparked FSU from an 18-point second-quarter deficit, the largest comeback on BCS record. It marked the first time in the 15-game history of the BCS championship that a team trailing at the half came back to win.

Winston engineered an 11-play, 66-yard drive to pull FSU within 21-10 at the half. The Seminoles sustained that drive with a fake punt, running back Karlos Williams converting with a 7-yard burst on fourth-and 4 from the FSU 40.

Florida State (14-0) dismantled its first 13 opponents, winning by an average of 42 points. That was not the case against Auburn (12-2) whose surprising run to the title game was fueled by a 73-yard, Hail Mary tipped pass touchdown to upset Georgia and the "Kick Six" a 100-yard return of a missed field goal to foil Alabama.

The Tigers fell just short of another last-gasp win.

"We've got a lot of competitors in our locker room," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "They're disappointed. It went back and forth, a lot of little plays swung, but you've got to give them guys credit. They drove the field and they scored towards the end and found a way to win."

The game marked the end of the BCS, which started in 1998. Next season the sport goes to a four-team playoff.

Quarterback Nick Marshall (14 for 27 passing, 217 yards, two touchdowns) staked the Tigers to the early lead. He threw for 113 yards in the half, including a 50-yard touchdown to Melvin Ray. He ran for 26 yards and a score over the first 30 minutes.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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