By Jonathan Deal
Florida State had not trailed more than one quarter all season. Monday night, they trailed for nearly the entire game before a late touchdown sealed a 34-31 win and BCS National Championship.
It was all Auburn through three and half quarters until Kermit Whitfield returned a kickoff for a touchdown to take a 27-24 lead. As they had all season, Auburn responded with a 37-yard rushing touchdown from Tre Mason.
FSU showed resilience, however, driving down the field with 79 seconds to play and score the go-ahead touchdown with 17 seconds remaining in the game. After a pass interference penalty set up Florida State at the 1-yard line, Jameis Winston threw a high pass to Kelvin Benjamin for the winning touchdown.
Nick Marshall scored all three of Auburn’s touchdowns of the first half, including two through air.
Auburn answered Roberto Aguayo’s 35-yard lead to take a 7-3 in the midway through the first. Marshall’s 12-yard pass to Tre Mason on third down gave Auburn the only touchdown of the game in the first quarter.
The touchdown came from a screen pass to Mason that caught the Seminoles off guard and allowed Mason to run into the end zone untouched. Florida State began the game blitzing its corner to take away the Tigers’ read-option play. The screen to Mason took advantage of the Seminoles’ aggressive early in the game.
Auburn shredded the Seminoles defense again on Auburn’s next possession when Marshall connected with Melvin Ray for a 50-yard score. Ray found himself with nothing but green in front, beat a pair of Florida State safeties and ran into the end zone for Auburn’s second touchdown of the game.
Auburn’s defense forced its fourth consecutive three-and-out on the next possession. Through 18 minutes in the game, Marshall had a quarterback rating of 236.1 compared to the Heisman trophy winner’s 69.2
After a missed Cody Parkey field goal, Ben Bradley stripped Winston to set up Nick Marshal’s 4-yard touchdown run.
Florida State answered following Marshall’s third TD of the first half. FSU drove down the field in 11 plays, going 66 yards to pull within 21-10 with 1:28 to go in the half.
The Seminoles faked a punt on their own 37-yard line to set up a Devante Freeman’s 3-yard touchdown. Auburn’s defense forced the 4th and four, but for the second time in the first half, its special teams gave FSU a first down.
Florida State added a field goal in the third quarter to pull within 21-13 for the only score of the third quarter before adding a touchdown with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Winston hit Chad Abram wide open in the flat, who leaped over a defender into the end zone.
The touchdown was set up by a P.J. Williams interception near midfield. On second-and- long, Marshall tried to loft a pass to Sammie Coates along the Auburn sideline that was picked off by a leaping Williams.
A personal foul penalty kept FSU from attempting the 2-point conversion and Auburn led 21-20 with 10:55 to play.