PASADENA, Calif. — Auburn ran out of magic Monday.
This time, it was Florida State that pulled the rabbit out of its hat, scoring with 13 seconds remaining on a Jameis Winston touchdown pass to give the Seminoles their third national championship, 34-31.
The BCS era ended in a thriller.
Three touchdowns were scored in the final five minutes before the Seminoles pulled out a dramatic victory in the Rose Bowl as Winston’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin sealed the victory.
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With FSU trailing 24-20 and time running out on the Seminoles’ season, freshman Kermit Whitfield returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to give the ’Noles a 27-24 lead.
But Auburn, which pulled out two victories on miracle plays at the end of the season, wasn’t done. Tre Mason scored on a 37-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers back on top 31-27.
Florida State got the ball back on its 20 with 1:11 remaining and drove the length of the field to give the school its first national title since 1999. FSU’s victory ended a run of seven consecutive BCS titles by Southeastern Conference schools.
Though the Seminoles breezed through the season by going 13-0 and winning games by an average margin of 42 points, questions lingered about their strength of schedule, their relative lack of stiff competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference compared with the weekly rigors endured by SEC members.
Still others wondered how FSU would respond under pressure for the first time.
The Seminoles answered their skeptics with an electric victory, coming from behind to knock off Auburn.
“There’s a lot of heart and guts down in Tallahassee, too,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Winston struggled much of the night but was near perfect when the 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 and on the next play Winston hit his big receiver, Benjamin, for the touchdown in traffic.
There was no miracle finish this time for the turnaround Tigers. They tossed the ball around on one final play, but it ended with Florida State jumping on a fumble, and the Seminoles sprinting onto the field under a storm of garnet and gold confetti.
For the Tigers, (12-2), Mason ran for 195 yards and Nick Marshall threw two touchdowns, connecting on 14 of 27 passes for 217 yards.
“I told them in the locker room, we put together the biggest turnaround in the history of college football. We were on the brink of making it one of those magical seasons,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
Winston was 20 for 35 for 237 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
The redshirt freshman, who turned 20 Monday, told his teammates: “I said ‘Guys, we didn’t come here for no reason.’ I said ‘Y’all, this is ours, man.’ ”
The Seminoles were down 21-3 in the first half, and wobbling, but never fell over.
And now Florida State is national champion, the first team to win it after being down at halftime.
During Winston’s record-breaking season, filled with blowouts and fourth quarters spent watching from the sideline, he never faced a situation in which he had to drive his team to a winning score.
Now he had a chance to add that last line to his remarkable resume — and he and his Seminoles handled it just fine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.