Florida State beats Auburn for national title
PASADENA, California (AP) — Jameis Winston threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left to lift Florida State past Auburn 34-31 in college football’s national championship game on Monday.
Winston struggled for much of the night but was near perfect when the top-ranked Seminoles (14-0) needed it most, going 6 for 7 for 77 yards on the game-winning 80-yard drive.
A pass interference penalty on Auburn’s Chris Davis gave Florida State a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, and on the next play Winston hit Benjamin for the winning touchdown.
Florida State won its first national championship since 1999 and became the first team to win the title after being down at halftime.
“I said this from Day 1 in spring ball. These kids are special,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “This group never faltered. They wanted to be elite. They wanted to go to the top and there’s so much character in this group.”
Florida State hadn’t been challenged like this all season, winning its games by an average of 42 points. But the Seminoles were down 21-3 in the first half, trailing for the first time in any game since Sept. 28.
The Seminoles cut it to 21-10 with a late touchdown in the second quarter and chipped into Auburn’s lead with a 41-yard field goal by Roberto Aguyao with 6:05 left in the third.
The momentum then shifted back and forth in the fourth quarter as Florida State and Auburn traded scores.
Kermit Whitfield gave Florida State its first lead since the first quarter with a 100-yard kickoff return to make it 27-24 with 4:31 left, but Tre Mason scored for Auburn three minutes later with a 37-yard touchdown run to make it 31-27.
Winston completed 20 of 35 passes for 237 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Seminoles.
Mason ran for 195 yards and Nick Marshall threw two touchdown passes for the second-ranked Tigers (12-2).
Auburn was making its second national championship game appearance after beating Oregon for the title four years ago behind Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
This is the final year for the Bowl Championship Series, college football’s much-maligned postseason system designed to match the nation’s top two teams. The BCS will be replaced by a four-team playoff next year.