Florida State vs. Auburn: Jimbo Fisher Shows Gus Malzahn Who's Boss in 2nd Half

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterJanuary 7, 2014

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 06:  (2nd L) Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher celebrates after defeating the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl on January 6, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Florida State wasn't a comeback team. It didn't need to be. 

On the contrary, the Seminoles got off to fast starts in 2013, shutting out opponents seven times in the first half. Florida State finished first in both scoring offense and defense. Unofficially, it also finished first in garbage time because of all the blowouts. 

By those numbers, Monday night's BCS National Championship Game against Auburn, a 34-31 win, couldn't have gone any less to script. 

The Florida State offense started out flat—the 'Noles were shaken, really—against Auburn's defense, which had been a porous 102nd in pass defense and gave up 24 points a game. The Seminoles were getting dominated in the trenches, and quarterback Jameis Winston was getting hit hard and often. 

There was no run game to take the pressure off Winston, and receivers were dropping passes. The Heisman winner was knocked out of rhythm, lost a fumble and finally looked like a redshirt freshman. 

It was only through a gutsy fake punt in the second quarter that the Seminoles kept a drive going, eventually resulting in a crucial touchdown.

Via B/R

Still, the 'Noles couldn't stop Auburn's high-tempo offensive onslaught and trailed 21-10 at the half. It was the worst, and most flustered, Florida State had looked all year. 

The game wasn't out of reach, though, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher apparently delivered a halftime speech for the ages. All anyone knows about it, though, was that it included the word "believe." 

Whatever else was said worked. After getting thoroughly outcoached by Auburn's Gus Malzahn in the first half, Fisher came out with a vengeance. 

Florida State scored the first 10 points in the third quarter to make it a one-point game and then exchanged scores with the Tigers all the way until the final seconds. In all, the Seminoles outscored Auburn 24-10 in the second half. (Seven Florida State points came on a Levonte Whitfield 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.) 

The biggest improvement came on defense. Florida State forced Auburn to punt on its first three possessions and forced a Nick Marshall interception on the fourth. None of those drives lasted longer than five plays or went farther than 17 yards. 

Auburn's offense isn't complicated, but its multiple options and tempo make it nearly impossible to stop.

Yet, Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his staff made excellent halftime adjustments. Auburn running back Tre Mason still got his touches and finished with 195 yards on the ground, but the Tigers' offensive production was cut almost in half in the final two quarters.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 06:  Quarterback Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles throws a pass against the Auburn Tigers during the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl on January 6, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by S
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

On offense, Fisher committed more to the run game and had success. Running back Devonta Freeman didn't have a huge game, with 73 yards on just 11 carries, but he picked up some tough and necessary yards all the same. 

And then there's Winston, who helped orchestrate a seven-play, 80-yard drive in the final minute that produced the game-winning touchdown. Of Winston's 237 yards passing, 77 came on six completions during that drive. One play after a defensive pass-interference penalty against Auburn, Winston connected with receiver Kelvin Benjamin on a two-yard touchdown pass.

The drive further proved it doesn't always matter how well you play the whole game as long as you play well when it matters. 

That was indicative of Florida State as a whole. The most dominating team in college football was a far cry from its normal self on Monday, but when things got bad, it dug in and stuck together. 

And Malzahn, an X's and O's genius, got stuffed by the comeback Seminoles.