The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

January 7, 2014

Winston leads top-ranked Florida State over Auburn

(Continued)

Auburn won nine straight to get here after starting the season unranked.

Tre Mason gave Auburn (12-2) a 31-27 lead with a 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left after Kermit Whitfield had put Florida State in the lead for the first time since the first quarter with a 100-yard kickoff return to make it 27-24 with 4:31 left.

Mason ran for 195 yards and scored two touchdowns, and Nick Marshall threw two touchdown passes for the Tigers.

"I told them in the locker room, we put together the biggest turnaround in the history of college football. We were on the brink of making it one of those magical seasons," Malzahn said.

Florida State hadn't been challenged like this all season, winning by an average of 42 points.

Florida State and Winston's biggest problem this season came off the field. Winston was investigated for a year-old sexual assault complaint in November, but after three weeks the Florida state attorney's office determined it did not have enough evidence to charge him.

The Seminoles were down 21-3 in the first half to Auburn. They hadn't trailed in a game since Sept. 28.

"I knew we were fighters," nose tackle Timmy Jernigan said.

And now Florida State is national champion for the first time since 1999, the first team to win the BCS title game after being down at halftime. The state of Alabama's national championship run is over at four, stopped by a quarterback from Bessemer who never rooted for the Tigers or Tide.

"Only thing is we're victorious and glad to say Florida State is the national champion again, and I guarantee you we're bringing that swag back," Winston said. "You'd better believe it."

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAp

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