BILL PLASCHKE

A perfectly flawed BCS system gets a near-perfect ending at Rose Bowl

Florida State beats Auburn, 34-31, in a dramatic national championship game that marks the end of the Bowl Championship Series after 16 years.

The ornery BCS expired loudly, perfectly, kicking and screaming into the chilly darkness.

The loony BCS took its last breath Monday by taking away the breath of a Rose Bowl filled with chants, chops, dancing and grief.

Auburn won. No, Florida State won. Check that, Auburn won. No, wait, by a score of 34-31 blazing in eternal white bulbs above a field littered with glittering confetti and forever memories, Florida State won college football's final BCS national championship.

Won with 13 exhausting, crawling seconds remaining.

SUMMARY: Florida State 34, Auburn 31

Won by the six inches that separated Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin from Auburn defensive back Chris Davis on a two-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston.

Won in six words uttered by Davis as he stood in a somber Auburn locker room amid teammates crying into their hands.

"Good defense, good catch, all over," he said.

It's all over indeed, the 16-year BCS college football championship system that will be replaced next season by a four-team playoff. Also ending was the Southeastern Conference's seven-year stranglehold on the crystal ball, and isn't America thrilled with that?

PHOTOS: Dramatic ending to BCS finale at Rose Bowl

In the end, the much maligned system finished its runs by getting it right with the two best teams in America playing one of the best games of any season, a game so wildly dramatic and intense that it left at least one competitor walking in circles on the cluttered field in a daze.

And that was a guy from the winning team. Mario Edwards Jr., a Seminoles defensive end, stood far apart from his stage-crowding teammates during the postgame trophy presentation, alone and in shock.

"I'm at a loss for words," he said, looking up at the thousands of Seminoles fans who wouldn't stop screaming. "Best game I've ever played in. Best game I've ever seen."

Was this the best of the 16 BCS championship games, even better than the legendary Texas victory over USC in January of 2006?

Well, even Vince Young's game-winning touchdown dash for the Longhorns couldn't match the 41/2-minute romp that ended this game.

At the time, Auburn led 24-20, and had clearly rattled Heisman Trophy winner Winston, whose alleged sexual-assault scandal-marked season appeared destined to end in failure.

"We felt like we had control of the game, it was ours," said Tigers tackle Greg Robinson.

Then, in one of the maddest Pasadena dashes since those chariot races, the game belonged to Florida State after a 100-yard kickoff return down the left sideline by a freshman sprinter named Levonte Whitfield.

Remember how Auburn had won the previous game of the year with a 100-yard return against Alabama?

Were they going to be felled by that same sword? Whitfield, who was the Florida state high school champion in the 100 and 200-yard dash, was never even touched. The Seminoles' sideline erupted with the run, dancing down the sideline led by Coach Jimbo Fisher shouting, "Go! Go! Go! Go!''

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