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Florida State wins BCS National Championship on last-minute TD

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Updated: January 7, 2014 12:35AM

PASADENA, Calif. — Turns out Chris Davis was directly involved in the two biggest plays of the college football season.

Davis, the Auburn player whose touchdown return of a missed field goal on the final play of the Iron Bowl against Alabama buoyed the Tigers on their way to the BCS title game, was on the opposite side of glory Monday night against Florida State.

He was in coverage on Kelvin Benjamin when the No. 1-ranked Seminoles’ top receiver caught a touchdown pass from Jameis Winston from the 2-yard line with 13 seconds left to play.

That rather unspectacular play gave FSU (14-0) its first national championship since the 1999 season and put an end to the SEC’s seven-year title streak with a 34-31 win over No. 2 Auburn.

There were so many memorable plays before it. None more so than when Kermit Whitfield stole Davis’ move.

With just under five minutes left to play in Monday night’s BCS title game, Florida State’s Whitfield took a kickoff in the end zone, found his way to the left sideline and didn’t stop until he was in the end zone.

That put the Seminoles on top 27-24, their first lead since the opening quarter.

But Auburn (12-2) didn’t need eye-popping heroics to nearly pull this one out. What the Tigers needed was a good, old-fashioned scoring drive with their offense.

That’s exactly what they got. Resourceful quarterback Nick Marshall and brilliant running back Tre Mason led them 75 yards for a touchdown with 1:19 to go, Mason scoring from 37 yards out on what looked to be a back-breaking carry off the right side.

The Seminoles had one last drive in them.

“We’ve been through adversity and handled it well,” Winston said. “And when [the Tigers] gave us all they got, we handled it well, too.”

The game brought a close to the BCS era, but the final matchup offered a fitting conclusion to one of the more remarkable periods in the sport’s history.

The matchup itself offered everything. There was a prohibitive favorite — a bully — in Florida State, which, entering Monday night, had scored more points per game than anybody and allowed fewer points per game than anybody in the land.

There was an us-against-the-world underdog in Auburn, which billed itself as a team of destiny. And why not? The last-ditch victories over Georgia and Alabama were beyond improbabl. The rise from 3-9 to the national title game was darned near impossible.

Of course, there was FSU Heisman Trophy winner Winston, who’d survived a late-season off-the-field controversy and charmed media here for several days with his storytelling and wit. On the whole, the Seminoles played it straight during the run-up to this game, but Winston, the team’s unquestioned leader, was a confident character.

His individual greatness loomed as large as the SEC’s seven-year streak, represented here by an Auburn team that may not be as talented as some of the winners from that league, but brought as much momentum and flair to the field as any BCS team had before it.

Perhaps the best thing about the BCS — far from loved by many — is that the title games have, by and large, delivered in a big way. In 16 years of this system, the teams that entered the title game ranked won only eight times.

The first half ended with Auburn, a 10-point underdog, on top by a score of 21-10. Winston completed only 6 of 15 passes for 62 yards and no touchdowns through two quarters. He was sacked twice and hit on other plays like he hadn’t been all season.

No one expected a one-sided affair, at least not one favoring the Tigers.

But this was a good thing, in the big picture. It set the stage for drama. It offered intrigue. It was everything college football’s bigwigs wanted when they dreamed up the BCS.

One system is dead. But the college game’s rise continues.


Twitter: @slgreenberg

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