Four Downs: Winston bolsters legacy with FSU’s title-clinching TD
Here are four things we gleaned from Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn, completing one of the most thrilling endings in BCS title game history:
Prior to Florida State’s championship-clinching touchdown drive, Winston had only registered 14 completions and 160 yards passing, middling numbers for college football’s biggest star.
But the redshirt freshman responded with a legacy-building drive, completing six of seven passes for 77 yards in just 66 seconds — highlighted by Rashad Greene’s 49-yard reception (breaking two tackles) early on and capped late by Kelvin Benjamin’s leaping touchdown catch (two yards).
Greene stole the show among the receivers, catching nine balls for 147 yards and one touchdown. Benjamin only tallied four catches and 54 yards, but two fourth-quarter receptions accounted for 23 yards and helped the Seminoles notch 21 points in the final stanza.
Which brings us to this: The Auburn defense should be commended for keeping Florida State — which averaged 50 points over its first 13 games (all victories) — relatively in check, allowing only 13 points in the first 49-plus minutes.
But everything changed late, with Winston (263 total yards, two TDs) hitting Chad Abram and Benjamin for touchdowns, with a kickoff-return TD from Levonte Whitfield sandwiched in between (more on him later).
It was human nature for Mason to cross the goal line unfettered, on the heels of a 37-yard touchdown run, breaking multiple tackles along the way.
But in a parallel universe, it would have been interesting to see Mason intentionally fall down at the 1 with 1:20 or so left on the clock, prompting Auburn to drain another 15 to 30 seconds in pursuit of the go-ahead touchdown.
Like Jameis Winston.
That aside, Mason was easily the best player on the field, racking up 237 total yards (195 rushing) and two touchdowns — Auburn’s first and last scores of the night. In the first quarter, he converted a short pass from QB Nick Marshall (275 total yards, three total TDs) into a 12-yard TD.
He’s that fast … and the Tigers’ kick coverage was that erratic.
One last note: After Auburn took the lead with 1:19 left, the Tigers actually had the guile to loft another kick to Whitfield. But that time, they kept the Seminoles’ burner in check — a small consolation to those who witnessed Florida State score regardless on its final drive.
Cory McCartney, Fox Sports South’s big kahuna, will likely debut the Seminoles and Tigers at 1-2 for his offseason rankings — the product of both schools returning a flood of offensive/defensive stars to campus in 2014.
On paper, it looks a good deal for both teams. But let’s take a closer look at what lies ahead:
And then, let’s not forget that Auburn ends the season with a trip to Tuscaloosa, taking on an Alabama team that will likely be ranked in the top 10.
One last thing: If the football gods have anything to say about it, Auburn is probably due for one or two unlucky bounces next year … as a deferred balloon payment for Ricardo Louis’s miracle catch against Georgia and Chris Davis’s absurd Kick Six against Alabama.