NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – On the morning after his Seminoles became national champions, Jimbo Fisher admitted he’d kicked Jameis Winston, the Heisman-winning quarterback, out of the final practice held in Tallahassee before the team departed for the West Coast. Fisher’s reasoning: Winston wasn’t serious enough in executing the two-minute drill.
When the very next game – and not just any game but the BCS title game – ends with the same Famous Jameis steering Florida State 80 yards to the championship-winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining … well, you’d have to say Jimbo did a jumbo job of coaching. (To Winston’s credit, he was waiting for Fisher in the locker room after his dismissal and the two had a long heart-to-heart.)
See, Florida State hadn’t been in a position where the final two minutes of a game mattered. It hadn’t trailed in a second half all season, hadn’t trailed in a game since two minutes before halftime against Boston College on Sept. 28. These Seminoles were known for front-running, not rally-making. But they needed one final drive to beat Auburn in the Rose Bowl on Monday night, and darned if the guy ejected from practice didn’t make like Montana.
Winston completed five of six passes for 77 yards on the winning push, the culmination coming when he arched a pass that only the 6-foot-5 Kelvin Benjamin could hook. (Benjamin outjumped Chris Davis, who’d scored the winning touchdown on the Kick Six return against Alabama but who missed a tackle on Rashad Greene on the drive’s second play and who was flagged – correctly – for pass interference against Greene in the end zone on third-and-8 at the Auburn 10.)
“It was our greatest game because it didn’t come easy,” Fisher said. “It was hard.”
Winning after trailing 21-3 made Florida State the owner of the biggest comeback in the 16 years of the BCS’ existence. It also left the title-taking coach with a sore hamstring. After Davis missed the tackle on Greene, the FSU receiver fled for 49 yards to the Auburn 23, whereupon he was halted by a Ryan White’s blatant horse-collar tackle. A 15-yard penalty should have been assessed atop the gain, but nothing was called. Fisher ran down the sideline to yell at the officials and felt something pull.
Nonetheless, the gimpy Jimbo was in fine fettle Tuesday morning. He lauded his players’ grit, touted the ACC as the near-equal of the SEC – hey, when you’re the coach who ends a conference’s chokehold on BCS titles, the floor is yours – and sounded a warning. “Our team (next season) is going to look a lot like this one,” he said. “We’re an extremely young football team.”
This time a year ago, we wondered if anyone and anything could stop Alabama from winning a third consecutive championship. Turns out Auburn and Davis did. Today we wonder if 14-0 Florida State and the sophomore-to-be Jameis Winston have supplanted Bama as the new gold standard in college football.
From myajc.com, our premium site: An historic FSU drive snaps the SEC’s championship run.
Further reading: On his birthday, Jameis Winston becomes a champ.