banner

College Football

more stats

Special teams play big factor in BCS title game

By Gerard Gallagher, Contributing College Football Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - Live by the return, die by the return.

The biggest play in Auburn's season, the one that ultimately catapulted the Tigers into the BCS National Championship Game even though they had to win once more to get there, was Chris Davis' last-second missed field goal return to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

It was an all-time shocker, one of the greatest plays in college football history.

In Monday's title game, the Tigers were on the opposite side of another big return.

Kermit Whitfield -- a freshman wide receiver said to have 4.37 40-yard speed -- took a kickoff back from just inside the goal line to give Florida State its first lead since 3-0 in the first quarter.

The play came with 4 1/2 minutes remaining and sent Auburn reeling, its 21-3 first-half lead suddenly evaporated.

None of Gus Malzahn's players came close to touching Whitfield as he carried the ball out of the end zone and cut left, racing down the sideline.

"Obviously we didn't cover it very well," the Auburn coach said. "That was a big play in the game. That was uncharacteristic (of us) but you gotta give them a lot of credit."

It was one of several key special teams plays on the Rose Bowl field Monday night, where Florida State beat Auburn 34-31 for its first national title in 14 years.

Earlier, Auburn's Steven Clark pinned Florida State down at the 2-yard line with a perfectly placed boot that looked less like a punt than a chip-shot in golf, the ball landing with a little backspin on it.

After the Seminoles went three-and-out Davis -- the Iron Bowl hero -- returned the ensuing punt 22 yards to set up Auburn's first touchdown for a 7-3 lead.

Later, his team trailing by 18 points, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher knew he needed to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

The call? A fake punt on 4th-and-4 from his own 40-yard line. Karlos Williams picked up seven yards on an end-around and Devonta Freeman scored on a 3-yard run with 88 seconds remaining in the half to pull the Seminoles within 11.

"I knew if they got it back and scored, the game could be over right there," said Fisher. "I thought that's what we had to do to get the momentum back."

Later, with Auburn clinging to a 21-13 lead, Tigers defensive back Jonathan Jones raced to keep Clark's punt out of the end zone and it was downed at the 4-yard line. Florida State made it as far as its 32-yard line and then punted.

The teams averaged 43 yards on 12 combined punts. Florida State didn't get to return any of the six punts it fielded.

Special indeed.

01/07 02:43:51 ET

Other Stories

  • NFL: San Diego at Denver

    Tonight at 8:25 on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: North Carolina at Virginia

    Saturday at 12:25 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

    Tonight at 8:25 on 620am

  • NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Calgary Flames

    Tonight at 8:30 on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
7:00pm Tonight
ECU
UCONN
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
IND
 
9:00pm Tonight
CAL
CAR
 
Final
KAN 7
SFG 2
Final
ORL 89
HOU 90
Final
BOS 100
BRK 86
Final
NYK 103
WAS 100
Final
MEM 96
CLE 92
Final
MIL 91
MIN 110
Final
SAN 107
ATL 117
4th
LAL 80
POR 70
 
3rd
LAC 62
PHO 61
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
IND
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
PHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
DAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
ECU
UCONN
8:00pm Tonight
VT
MIAMI
7:00pm Wednesday
OTT 0
TOR 0
Final
PIT 3
PHI 5
3rd
EDM 3
WAS 2
 
2nd Intermission
ANA 2
BUF 0
 
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
NYI
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
PIT
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
ARI
 
8:00pm Tonight
NAS
CHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
STL
VAN
 
9:00pm Tonight
CAL
CAR
 
10:30pm Tonight
LOS
BUF
 
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
CLB
 
8:25pm Tonight
DEN
SDC