PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Marshall rushed for a touchdown and threw scoring passes to Tre Mason and Melvin Ray, leading No. 2 Auburn to a surprising 21-10 lead over No. 1 Florida State at halftime Monday night in the final BCS championship game.
Mason caught a 12-yard TD screen pass in the first quarter, and Ray ran alone down the middle with a 50-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter as the underdog Tigers jumped to a stunning 18-point lead on the unbeaten Seminoles and Jameis Winston, their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
Devonta Freeman had a 3-yard scoring run with 1:28 left in the half for Florida State, which hadn't trailed in any game since Sept. 28.
Winston showed some serious big-game jitters on his 20th birthday, going 6 for 15 for 62 yards with a key fumble setting up Marshall's 4-yard TD run 5:01 before halftime. The Heisman winner got rolling moments later, leading a 66-yard scoring drive, but faced plenty of work in the second half.
Marshall, Winston's relatively unheralded counterpart, looked sharp in the Auburn backfield, and SEC rushing champion Mason ran for 96 yards. Auburn was the nation's top rushing team, but coach Gus Malzahn showed the SEC champions can fling it as well while racking up 232 yards of offense in the first half.
All-America kicker Roberto Aguayo made a 35-yard field goal on the opening drive for the Seminoles, who faced their first deficit in 3½ months after the Tigers capitalized on a short field for Mason's catch with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
Auburn then moved 85 yards on its first drive of the second quarter with a TD catch for Ray, the sophomore and minor league baseball player from Tallahassee who had just four receptions in the regular season.
Florida State's Jalen Ramsey failed to pick up Ray all alone down the middle. Ray then juked a defender near the goal line and scored as the Tigers' fans rocked the Rose Bowl stands with cheers.
Auburn's Angelo Blackson then swatted the ball out of Winston's hand on a run moments after the Tigers missed a field goal, and Marshall finished the drive by turning the corner on Florida State's defense for a score.
A successful fake punt finally sparked the Seminoles moments later. Winston made a 21-yard run complete with a vicious stiff-arm to Auburn's Kris Frost, and Freeman scored on the next play.
Auburn is making its second BCS championship game appearance after beating Oregon for the title three years ago behind Heisman winner Cam Newton. The Tigers went 3-9 last season, but first-year Malzahn quickly returned them to the national spotlight.
The Seminoles had run over every opponent in their path to a third national title, but the first half indicated coach Jimbo Fisher's team would be tested. Florida State is chasing its third national championship after a spectacular season in which the Seminoles won their 13 games by an average of 42.3 points.