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Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Winston wins despite early stumbles

By Ivan Maisel



PASADENA, Calif. -- Over 13 games, Jameis Winston proved himself the best player in college football. The Florida State quarterback proved a redshirt freshman could win the Heisman Trophy while leading his team to an undefeated season, a No. 1 ranking, and a place in the BCS National Championship. He proved he could maintain his focus down the home stretch as the nation speculated for a month on whether he was a felon.

On Monday night, playing No. 2 Auburn at the Rose Bowl, Winston proved something else entirely. He proved he is human, that he can be thrown off his rhythm, that he can telegraph his passes, that he can play a half looking like the first-year player that the roster says he is.

Winston proved he can do all of that and still lead his team to victory in the biggest game of his young life. With Florida State trailing Auburn, 31-27, and only 1:19 showing on the clock, Winston took the Seminoles 80 yards in seven plays, and threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with :13 to spare, the winning margin in a 34-31 victory that sent the BCS out with a flourish.

Winston left his teenage years behind him Monday night, and not just because it was his 20th birthday.

"It's the best football game he played all year," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said, "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. When you can go back like the great ones do -- 'It's not my night but we've got a chance to win this ballgame. It's in the fourth quarter, I've got one or two touches left' -- and you can take your team down the field and lead to victory, that's what a great player is to me.

"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."

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