Jan. 7, 2014
By Phillip Marshall
PASADENA, Calif. - For most of the night, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson liked what he was seeing Monday night at the Rose Bowl. But in the end, the Tigers couldn't make the one more play they needed to win a national championship.
Auburn took 31-27 lead in the BCS Championship Game with a stirring 37-yard Tre Mason touchdown run. Florida State got the ball at its own 20 with 1:11 left in the game. One more stop and the Tigers and the tens of thousands of fans who followed them west would have a celebration for the ages.
Instead, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw a quick pass that Rashad Greene turned into a 49-yard gain, then took advantage of a pass interference penalty in the end zone to win it on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left.
"We just had a missed tackle," Johnson said. "I thought overall we played great. We had eight or nine three-and-outs, had a turnover. I thought we responded to adversity. We were off the field and get the fake punt and other things like that. I thought the kids tried to fight through and did a great job. They just came up a few plays short there at the end."
The Tigers outgained Florida State 449 yards to 385. They led 21-3 in the second quarter. But as with the defense, they were a missed pass here, a penalty there on offense away from putting the game on ice.
"Oh, yeah," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "In the second quarter we had them down 21-3 and were in complete control. We didn't do it. To their credit, great teams keep fighting and they did. The third quarter we had a few opportunities. A holding penalty on one cost us. We came up just short of points a couple of times and it came back and cost us."
Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes had heard the talk that the Tigers, the nation's top rushing team, wouldn't be able to run it against Florida State's defense. But Tre Mason rushed for 195 yards on 35 carries and the Tigers netted 232 yards.
"It's been a great ride," Grimes said. "I hate for it to end this way. I hate it for these kids because they have worked so hard and have done everything we've asked them to do. They've really just gritted their teeth and done what we've asked them to do. To be so close. We were right there.
"Give Florida State credit. They wouldn't go away and they kept fighting."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: