PASADENA, Calif. (CBSLA.com/AP) — If Jameis Winston heads to the NFL as everybody expects, the Florida State quarterback will remember the Rose Bowl as the site of his greatest college achievement and his most disappointing day.
Just under a year after the Seminoles won the national championship on the same hallowed turf, Winston lived a nightmare against Oregon on Thursday.
Winston threw an interception and lost a comical fumble during the Seminoles’ disastrous second half in their 59-20 loss to the Ducks in the first College Football Playoff semifinal.
The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner was outplayed by current trophy-holder Marcus Mariota, but Winston only deserved a portion of the blame for the thorough thrashing received by the Seminoles, who allowed the most points in the 101-edition history of the Granddaddy of Them All.
Yet the stark reality of this defeat was obvious while Winston trudged off the field: He had lost a football game as the starting quarterback for the first time since Nov. 25, 2011, in his senior year of high school.
Winston was unbeaten over the last two years for the majority of Florida State’s 29-game winning streak, which came to a crashing end in Arroyo Seco.
Winston went 29 of 45 for 348 yards, regularly showing off his pinpoint throwing ability and football smarts during early drives. But the Ducks ran away when Florida State committed turnovers on four consecutive drives in the second half — an interception and a fumble by Winston sandwiched between two fumbles by freshman running back Dalvin Cook.
With the Seminoles desperately trying to hang in after falling behind 39-20, Winston scrambled, slipped and fumbled late in the third quarter, losing the ball over his head as he lost his footing while attempting to pass.
While Tony Washington scooped it up and scored, the Internet went to work immortalizing Winston’s awkward turnover in endless loops online.
Two plays later, Winston’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Erick Dargan at midfield. Oregon drove for yet another score, and the Seminoles were irretrievably behind.
Winston didn’t look shaken, but he obviously felt the pressure that he handled so impressively last season against Auburn, culminating in his last-minute winning TD drive. While the Ducks’ lead mounted, coach Jimbo Fisher was caught on television telling his quarterback to “calm … down, or you’re going to the bench.”
Winston began the week with a relatively clear mind after a season full of off-the-field distractions and troubles. Last month, Winston was cleared of violating Florida State’s student code of conduct surrounding an alleged sexual assault two years ago, likely clearing him to play for a second straight national title.
The Seminoles won’t even make it to Cowboys Stadium for the finale, thanks to Oregon’s relentless offense and their inability to match it.
Florida State’s troubles began early, when it missed several opportunities to jump in front of Oregon. The Seminoles got 12 plays inside the Oregon 15 in the first half, but didn’t score a touchdown until Karlos Williams’ run in the final minute.
Florida State’s loss of 39 points marks the 2nd-greatest loss by an AP top-5 team in a bowl game, according to ESPN.
The ferris wheel at Santa Monica’s Pacific Park was lit up in green and yellow, in honor of Oregon’s victory.
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