By Mike Hiserman
Los Angeles Times
That seven-year Southeastern Conference stranglehold on college football’s national championship has come to an end.
But it died hard.
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was outplayed by Auburn counterpart Nick Marshall for three quarters, but the Florida State redshirt freshman showed why he was considered the nation’s top player, bringing Florida State back in the final minutes for a 34-31 victory in the Bowl Championship Series title game at the Rose Bowl.
A crowd of 94,208 witnessed it, and 10 times that many will say they were there.
Winston connected with Kevin Benjamin on a two-yard pass just above the outstretched arms of Auburn’s Chris Davis with 1 minute 19 seconds left for the game-winner.
Winston, the first freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national championship, completed 20 of 35 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns. He also run for 26 yards in 11 carries.
His pass to Benjamin capped a furious final few minutes.
Auburn led, 24-20, after a 23-yard field goal by Cody Parkey with 4:42 left.
That lead lasted 11 seconds — as long as it took Florida State freshman Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield to sprint 100 yards with the kickoff.
But Auburn came right back with a 37-yard touchdown run by Tre Mason to regain the lead, 31-27.
Mason, a Heisman Trophy finalist, finished with 195 yards in 34 carries.
All that did was set it up for Winston’s heroics.
He cooly drove Florida State 80 yards in seven plays, the big gain coming on a short pass that Rashad Green turned into a 49-yard gain.
Green caught the ball in the right flat, split two Auburn defenders, and raced down the sideline.
Five plays later — on the second play after an untimely Florida State penalty for delay of game — Winston found Benjamin.
Florida State got a pass interference call on the next play, however — Davis was called for being over Green’s back — moving the ball to the two with a first down.
Top-ranked Florida State capped a 14-0 season. Auburn fell to 12-2 in the final game of the BCS era.