- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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PASADENA, Calif. -- If you're a Florida State fan, you know in the very nougat of your garnet and gold giblets that Heisman Trophy winner Famous Jameis Winston didn't have his A game Monday night in the BCS title tilt at the Rose Bowl.
Nor his B game, nor his C. And only spare parts of his D.
That's why you need to get out your thank-you notes right now and get cracking:
• Thank you, Jimbo Fisher, for having stones the size of beach balls. Your fake-punt do-or-die call in the second quarter will go down with Bobby Bowden's Puntrooskie in 1988 against Clemson in Seminoles lore. It was as big as Sean Payton's surprise onside kick that won him a Super Bowl. It was the biggest L.A. surprise since Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child.
"Had to," Fisher said as he was being mobbed outside the locker room. "Either that or we get blowed out."
They would've got blowed out, too. The Noles were down 21-3 and sinking like a piano at Water World. It was fourth-and-4 from their own 40 with less than five minutes left in the half.
"Man, I'd been waiting all year for him to call it!" punter Cason Beatty said. "We work on it every week in practice and it always works. So when I heard 'Base Right Over Rocket' I was so happy."
Beatty waited for the snap, which was purposely intercepted by the up man, who reversed it to Karlos Williams, who gained 7 yards around the end.
As former Texas coach Mack Brown tweeted, "That doesn't work it's probably a different ending." But it did work. And FSU scored to make it 21-10 at half.
• Thank you, Levonte "Kermit" Whitfield. And thank your parents, too. You're faster than gossip (10.1 in the 100 meters) and FSU needed every piston of it on your game-changing, turf-scorching, 100-yard kickoff return with 4:31 left in the season.
Fisher called it at halftime. "He told us, 'It's only a matter of time before Kermit pops one,'" FSU wide receiver Rashad Greene said. "And sure enough ..." The one thing keeping Whitfield back? Williams himself. As the other deep man, he gives Whitfield the red or green light on each kickoff, depending on how deep the ball is, etc., and he was keeping him grounded.
"He kept saying to me, 'C'mon, man, let me run!'" Williams said.
When he finally got a high one to the goal line, Williams let him loose.
"I just saw green," said Kermit, appropriately. "It broke open and I knew they couldn't catch me. That sort of got us on fire."
The best part of Whitfield's Whizzer was watching Fisher (who might be a small Butterball or two overweight) sprinting along the sideline after him. "I think I pulled a hammy," Fisher said.
• Thank you, fickle Fate, for flipping the fortunes of Auburn corner Chris Davis. He was the unforgettable hero of the Tigers' win over Alabama with his 109-yard missed field goal return, but he was aw-burned three straight times in the final minute to give FSU the crystal football.
First, with just a minute left in the game, he missed a tackle on Greene, allowing him to gain 49 yards, a monstrously huge play. "It was just a little slant pass that I was trying to get out of bounds on," Greene said. "But they missed the tackle and I was off to the races."
Second, a few plays later, he couldn't stay with Greene on a slant over the middle and had to hold on to him to keep him from scoring. Pass interference. First down at the 2. "No, sir," Davis said. "That was just great defense. That wasn't interference."
Somebody get that man a DVR.
Thirdly, on the very next play, he couldn't stay with 6-foot-5 (at least) Kelvin Benjamin, who posted him up for the winning touchdown. No contest. Benjamin caught the ball nearly a foot over his head. "He was just a rock in the road," Benjamin said, pitilessly.
After that, Auburn's magic hat was out of rabbits and it was over. FSU 34, Auburn 31.
Benjamin kept that football until after the game, when he gave it to Coach Fisher, who nearly cried and then told all his players how much he loved them. "Kind of a late birthday present," Benjamin said.
Very late. Fisher's birthday is Oct. 9.
But it really was Winston's birthday, his 20th, so he deserves a thank you, too. Thank you, Famous, for blowing out all the weak Kool-Aid opponents you and your Seminoles played all season to get to the title game in the first place. And thanks for showing up -- finally -- at the end when it was for all the Tostitos. Or Vizios. Or whatever.
Come to think of it, I have one:
• Thank you, Florida State, for saving my bacon, not to mention my ham and my eggs. I went out on a very creaky limb, insisting you'd beat Auburn, demanding that you had to beat Auburn and end the horrid reign of SEC national titles at seven in a row, for the good of college football, the nation and world democracy.
Thanks to you, I no longer have to move to Chechnya, as so many very passionate and bad-spelling SEC fans have suggested.
23hSam Khan Jr.