The Florida State Seminoles got the ball back with 1:19 to play and 80 yards to go, needing a touchdown to win the BCS National Championship. The team that many people questioned in the clutch would have to prove the doubters wrong if it wanted to hoist the crystal football.
That is exactly what Jimbo Fisher's team did, marching down the field in methodical fashion to score a touchdown and put away Auburn, 34-31 in Pasadena. Fisher bested Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, and in the end, Fisher's team beat out Gus Malzahn's for the coveted trophy.
Florida State started on its own 20-yard line, looking for a way to kick-start its drive. The answer was the game's leading receiver, Rashad Greene. The quick hitter out of this formation gave quarterback Jameis Winston a little confidence and helped get the positives flowing for an offense that had been up and down all night.
Fisher followed up the quick hitter with another quick-ball-out situation for Winston. Auburn's front four had been getting pressure all night, and the sustained success in the FSU passing game had come not from going over the top but from quick passes that allowed the offense to get into a rhythm.
Unlike in most of the game, this slant to Greene would turn into a big play on the strength of a missed tackle. Auburn tackled well in space for much of the BCS Championship Game; however, poor angles led the two Tigers defenders to collide, while Greene squirted out for 49 yards.
After getting gashed and failing to bother Winston two plays in a row, Johnson dialed up the pressure by adding two rushers to the mix in an effort to rattle the Heisman winner. In response, Fisher called a double screen. Kenny Shaw went into motion and ran a wide receiver screen to the left of Winston, and Devonta Freeman set up with the offensive line for a running back screen to the right.
Auburn's Kris Frost, who played a solid game, showed athleticism in rerouting from the blitz to track down Freeman and make a tackle for a gain of just six yards. The screen was set up to go for a touchdown, if Frost had not redirected and used his speed to get to Freeman before the back could get started down the field.
That's three plays, three passes and three completions for Winston, who could not seem to find his targets earlier in the game. On the fourth play, the Seminoles went right back to the well with double slants.
The play worked earlier in the drive to Greene, who went for 49 yards after he slipped two tacklers. This time, Auburn's linebacker, after showing blitz, expanded to stop the quick hitter to Greene, which left the inside slant to Shaw unoccupied and yielded an easy first down.
On the next play, Winston went back to the well again, trying to hit Greene who was moving across the field on a shallow snag route, but the pass fell incomplete. What Winston did not see was a wide-open Freeman, who blew past Frost after stalling in the line to check for pass protection assignments.
After missing the running back in the interior, Winston found him on the checkdown to get to the sideline and put the Seminoles at 3rd-and-3 from the 5-yard line. Of course, the short distance for the first down and ultimately the end zone would be short-lived, thanks to a quick delay-of-game penalty for Winston.
The pass interference on the next play would be the most controversial call of the contest.
All game, the Big Ten officiating crew had let the teams play. The officials let close pass interference calls go on both sides. FSU and Auburn both got away with penalties, including a couple of facemasks and a horse collar that went without flags. Although the refs threw a flag on Freeman's celebratory act, they did not penalize Auburn's Tre Mason for a spike and Heisman pose on a later touchdown.
Given the way the passing game had been officiated all evening, the flag on Auburn's Chris Davis was somewhat questionable. Yes, there was early contact when Davis worked his guide hand on Greene's back in an effort to remain in contact as he swatted at the ball with his other hand. However, it was no more contact than when Jalen Ramsey collided with Auburn's Sammie Coates, which drew no flag.
With the penalty assessed, Florida State only had one thing left to do: find its way into the end zone from the 2-yard line. The 'Noles lined up in big personnel, while Auburn stacked the box and left Kelvin Benjamin outside against Davis.
The big redshirt sophomore climbed the ladder, and both Benjamin and Winston went from not performing up to expectations to being heroes who brought home a title.
This Florida State team answered the bell. In the very situation that people worried the Seminoles would have no answer for, Winston and his teammates prevailed. The 'Noles put it in the haters' faces—no close games all year, no problem.