Counting Down Jameis Winston’s 5 Best Games: No. 1


With the NFL Draft five days away and Jameis Winston the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in mock drafts from just about all the reputable sources, I will be counting down Winston’s five best games as a Seminole leading up to next Thursday when it seems likely that he will make history as the first No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in Florida State history. You can find the earlier pieces in the countdown along with all of my articles here.

And now we have arrived at No. 1. The very best game of Jameis Winston’s career at FSU out of the 27 he started. It is worth noting that when I was making my final rankings for this countdown, I heavily weighed the significance of games that had a huge weight. Because of this, there was only one game that could come in at No. 1: the most important game of Winston’s career. The 16th and final BCS National Championship, which saw Winston complete the single greatest season by a freshman quarterback in college football history by being the first freshman to lead his team to a national championship win in NCAA history.

After the Clemson game, which came in at No. 2 on the countdown, the Florida State football team went on a streak of dominant wins with no games closer than 27 points in the final 6 games of the regular season and the ACC Championship against Duke. In that time period, Winston added to his Heisman campaign, which really started in the crushing of Clemson, every week with 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in that 7-game span and a quarterback rating above 150 in every game.

After the ACC Championship Game, Winston flew to New York for the Heisman Trophy Ceremony where he and fellow finalists Jordan Lynch, Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Tre Mason, and Andre Williams would find out who won the 2013 Heisman Trophy. As all Florida State fans know by now, Winston won the Heisman in a runaway vote, receiving three times as many points as any other candidate. Winston was the third Heisman Trophy winner in FSU history but with the trophy came a stigma. Both former Seminoles who won Heismans, Charlie Ward in 1993 and Chris Weinke in 2000, led their teams to national championships during their time as quarterback. Ward did it in the same year he won the Heisman and Weinke won the national championship in 1999, the year before he won his Heisman.

Winston would get his chance to lead the Seminoles to a third national championship after captaining a 13-0 Florida State team, the only undefeated team remaining in the country. For much of the season, it seemed like the ‘Noles were on a collision course with Alabama, who spent much of the season undefeated. However, the Iron Bowl saw a major plot twist as Auburn, who had just one loss on the season, shocked the Crimson Tide with a return touchdown on a missed field goal as time expired to take Alabama’s spot in the national championship, which they locked up after a dismantling of Missouri in the SEC Championship.

Entering the BCS National Championship Game, most bettors were choosing the team of dominance over the team of destiny as the line swung Florida State’s way with the Seminoles favored by as many as 10 points in some sportsbooks. However, as they often do, casual football fans were quick to point out that the Seminoles had not played in many close games and because of this, may not be able to come from behind should they find themselves in an early hole against Auburn. As such, it became a bit of a trendy pick to go with Auburn as the game approached.

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Florida State started the national championship just like most games  during the season leading up, allowing one first down before forcing an Auburn punt and putting together a 9-play, 59-yard drive which resulted in a Roberto Aguayo field goal to make it 3-0. From there though, the game took on a much different look from those leading up to this one as the Tigers rattled off 21 straight points with a pair of touchdown passes and a touchdown run, all from quarterback Nick Marshall. A Devonta Freeman touchdown run with 1:28 to go in the first half made it 21-10 but the Seminoles headed into halftime in a place that they had been for just minutes in the entirety of the season leading up, trailing (and by double digits no less).

Coming out of halftime, Florida State’s offense was unable to muster much, scoring just 3 points in the third quarter but the Seminole defensive unit rose to the occasion, allowing zero points in the third quarter. Entering the fourth and final quarter, FSU still trailed but had cut the lead to 21-13. The lead was cut further when Winston finally got his first touchdown of the game, finding fullback Chad Abram for an 11-yard touchdown pass to make it a one-point game at 21-20.

After a six minute Auburn drive that resulted in a field goal that gave the Tigers a 24-20 lead, the final 4:41 would go down in history as one of the craziest endings to a game in recent college football history. Immediately after the field goal, Florida State reclaimed the lead after trailing for nearly 45 minutes when Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield, a true freshman, took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, giving the Seminoles a 27-24 lead. Auburn responded with an 8-play drive that took just over three minutes and ended with a 37-yard touchdown run by Tre Mason as the Tigers jumped in front again by a score of 31-27 with only one minute and nineteen seconds left in the game.

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At this point, even Seminole fans had their doubts about if Winston could lead one more touchdown drive. After all, he had not been required to run a two-minute-drill offense at any point in the 2013 season up to that point. Even more questionably, Winston had not had his most successful game up to that point. Entering the final drive, he was 14-28 with 160 passing yards and 1 touchdown. Despite all the odds being against him, Winston rose to the occasion when he was needed most, going 6-7 on the final drive with 77 passing yards and the now-iconic touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin to clinch the game as the Seminoles won 34-31, winning their third national championship in the same year that they won their third Heisman and the FSU quarterback stigma around Winston was lifted.

For the game, Winston went 20-35 for 237 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Far from his most impressive game statistically, it is the intangibles that make this game so impressive for Winston. This young man, who turned twenty on the day of the national championship, had the leadership ability to bring in a group of players who were almost all older than him and compose them before this drive that would make or break their season. As great as an undefeated regular season would have been, the national championship loss would have been what was remembered from the 2013 campaign had the final drive resulted in anything but a touchdown.

The bottom line with Winston is that it wasn’t always easy, as shown by the 2014 season, and it wasn’t always fun, as shown by the instances of delinquency which Winston is still known for on the national scene, but any logical Florida State fan would take Winston as he is all over again if given the choice. Winston will be missed but considering it seems that he will be remaining in-state at the next level, it will not be difficult for many FSU fans to continue watching him on a regular basis and supporting #5 in all of his professional endeavors.