It seemed fitting that Florida State University was in Pasadena to participate in the final BCS game before Division 1 college football adopts a four-team playoff next year.
After all, FSU took part in the first three BCS title games, winning the national championship in 1999. On Monday, they were looking to get back to the top once again.
Although they trailed for much of the contest, 21 fourth-quarter points, including a Jameis Winston two-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with just 13 seconds left, propelled FSU to a thrilling 34-31 victory and the third national title in school history.
It was without question one of the best games in the 16-year history of the BCS, and it ended the seven-year run of consecutive national titles won by SEC conference schools.
Auburn fought valiantly and proved to be an excellent opponent. Considering they were just a year removed from one of the worst seasons in school history, the Tigers can hold their heads high.
For FSU, it put an end to one of the most dominating seasons by a Division I team in decades. Each of the Seminoles’ first 13 victories were decided by 14 points or more and they featured an offense that was led by a dynamic young freshman quarterback in Winston.
The game itself featured a little bit of everything. Auburn running back Tre Mason ran for 195 yards in the loss and set a record for most rushing yards in a BCS title game. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher called for a fake punt with less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter, allowing the Seminoles to keep a drive alive and score to keep the game relatively close at halftime.
Auburn led the stat sheet in just about every major category—first downs, total yards, total plays, time of possession, sacks and third-down conversions—yet they came out on the losing end.
FSU never gave up—in fact, they showed guts and grit in a fourth quarter that featured five scores and three lead-changes. Down by four points with 79 seconds remaining and 80 yards away from pay dirt, the Seminoles marched calmly down the field led by Winston, who for much of the game didn’t live up to his Heisman Trophy billing. But in those final seconds he produced, hitting six-of-seven passes for 77 yards.
Winston put together the drive of his life when his team most needed it, and that is what coach Fisher will take away from this game.
"It was the best football game he's played all year," Fisher said, "and I'll tell you why, because for three quarters he was up and down and he fought.
"And to pull it out in the atmosphere and environment and with what was on the line tonight, to me if that's not a great player, I don't know who is."
The mark of a great quarterback is to pull out a win despite a less-than stellar effort, and Winston certainly proved that on Monday night.
For Winston, it was exactly the situation he wanted to be in.
"I wanted to be in that situation because that's what great quarterbacks do," Winston said. "That's what the Tom Bradys, Peyton Mannings, Drew Breeses, the Cam Newtons, that's what they do. Any quarterback can go out there and perform when they're up 50-0 in the second quarter."
It was his performance that lifted FSU on this night that marked the end of the BCS era. And it was only fitting that the Seminoles lifted the crystal ball trophy one last time.