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Rapid Reaction: FSU Wins National Championship 34-31

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What happens when you hand the Heisman trophy winner the ball with 1:11 left and tell him to go score you a touchdown to win a national title?

How about he goes 6/7 for 72 yards and throws a game-winning touchdown pass with just seconds remaining on the clock. That's what he's supposed to do, at least. So much is made of the "Heisman curse" and all that comes with it, and on Monday night Jameis Winston looked like he was destined to become the curse's next victim.

Not so fast.

Winston may have struggled in the early going. And granted, his stat-line -- 20/35, 237 yards and two touchdowns -- was hardly his most impressive. But this was the national title game and Winston led a team back from 21-3. He led a game-winning drive.

When the Seminoles needed him most, Winston stood and delivered.

Of course, it never gets to that point without Jimbo Fisher's decision to fake a punt late in the 2nd quarter near his own 30 yard-line. Though far less flashy, that will likely come to be known as Fisher's puntrooskie. It was a play FSU had to have, it was one that Fisher needed confidence to call and it was a play that will come to define this 2013 season.

That all beckons back to the way this team feels about itself, about one another. Fisher was noticeably choked up when asked about what it means to say goodbye to this team -- to say goodbye to the 2010 class.

2010 was the first class Fisher recruited as a head coach. It was cobbled together by Fisher and Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith and Jeff Luc and it turned into one of the greatest in Florida State history. Fans will see wins and stats and that title, but Fisher will point to two things: the team's selflessness and its love for one another. 

That all came to a head on Monday night.

In past years, maybe Fisher doesnt roll the dice in that situation. Maybe he doesn't want to risk it all yet in the first half. But this year, with this team, Fisher trusted his players and even if they didn't make it, he was willing to go for broke with them.

And they responded to that. 

FSU scored a touchdown on that drive, capping a 66-yard drive with a Devonta Freeman touchdown to cut the Auburn lead to 21-10 at the half. 

Then the defense buckled down in the third quarter, holding Auburn scoreless and starting to impose its own will on the Tigers while the Florida State offense continued to scratch and claw its way back into the game.

But in the end it would all come down to Winston -- the Heisman winner -- and whether he could overcome three up-and-down quarters in order to lead FSU on one final touchdown drive.

Auburn and Florida State had gone back and forth, trading three scores in three and a half minutes before Winston trotted out with 80 yards and 1:11 between him and a national title.

He was nearly perfect. The indecision, the hesitation, all off the negative ticks that had started to manifest as Auburn had put pressure -- and hits -- on Winston throughout the first 55 minutes were suddenly gone. There he was, this was the kid that had blown people away through the first 13 games of the season, finally he was in Pasadena. 

Suddenly Winston was stepping into his throws, getting his eyes down the field and trusting his instincts. His throws were crisper, more decisive, the ball began to come out quicker and the offense roared to life. 

58 seconds later Winston found Kelvin Benjamin in the endzone for the game-winning score.

It was the first time Florida State fans had to sweat the ending of a game all year but in many ways it couldn't have been a more perfect ending for Florida State.

After all the eye-popping numbers Jameis Winston completed the most impressive season by any freshman quarterback in NCAA history not without an absurd statistical output, but with the kind of game-winning drive that showcases a player's competitve fire. 

As Jimbo Fisher said:  "It's the best football game [Jameis] played all year, and I'll tell you why, because for three quarters he was up and down, and he fought. And just like any great player, some nights you don't have it.

"Anybody can do it when it's their 'A' game night. A lot of guys can do that. Very few can do it when it's not their night. 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 what one is."

Added Winston:  "I'm pretty sure I got more respect from my teammates and the people around me on that last drive than I got the whole year."

 

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