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Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On his birthday, Jameis Winston becomes a champ

This post is presented as a companion to the Florida State-Auburn game column, which can be found on, our premium site.


1. On his 20th birthday, Jameis Winston took a game going bad and wrestled it into a national championship. The Florida State quarterback completed 12 of 24 passes for 120 yards and no touchdowns and was sacked four times in the first three quarters. He completed nine of 11 for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the final period. “It was his best game of the year,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of the Heisman Trophy winner, “and I’ll tell you why … A lot of guys can look good on their ‘A-game’ nights, but it takes something special to win on a night like this.”

2. The Seminoles began their rally with a special-teams coup, and a kickoff return gave them an improbable fourth-quarter lead. The school that authored the famous LeRoy Butler punt rooskie at Clemson in 1988 conjured up a double-reverse fake punt late in the first half for a catalytic conversion that enabled FSU to cut Auburn’s lead to 21-10 at the half. Then, with 4:31 remaining, Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield took a kickoff 100 yards to give the Seminoles their first lead since 3:08 remained in the first quarter. If it wasn’t quite as epic as Chris Davis’ 109-yard field-goal return that enabled Auburn to topple Alabama, it was absolutely the most dramatic kickoff return in BCS title game annals.

3. Auburn gained 449 yards, but it managed almost as many yards passing (217) as rushing (232). With an 18-point lead, the Tigers seemed positioned to do what they do – run the ball – and grind the Seminoles into submission. Instead FSU limited Auburn to 19 yards rushing in the third quarter, the point when the game began to swing back toward Florida State. The 232 yards rushing marked the Tigers’ lowest total since managing 228 against LSU – their only regular-season loss – on Sept. 21. Tailback Tre Mason gained 195 yards on 34 carries, but quarterback Nick Marshall was limited to 45 on 16. (Marshall did complete 14 of 27 passes.)

From An historic FSU drive snaps the SEC's championship run.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.