Rose Bowl loss is thorn in the side for Jameis Winston

Rose Bowl loss is thorn in the side for Jameis Winston
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston stumbles and fumbles while trying to escape the pressure of Oregon linebacker Tony Washington in the third quarter of Thursday night's Rose Bowl. (Wally Skaij / Los Angeles Times)

The final minutes of the game found Jameis Winston standing on the sideline, arms folded, his once-pristine jersey smeared with grass stains.

Teammates patted him on the helmet or leaned close to say a few words of comfort. There wasn't much else they could do.


"It hurts badder than whatever you can imagine," Winston said. "I ain't felt this way in a long time."

The Florida State quarterback had gone three years — all the way back to his senior year in high school — without losing a football game. That stretch included 26 wins as a starter in college and a perfect 2013 season that ended with a national championship and the Heisman Trophy.

So a 59-20 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Thursday was particularly tough to handle.

"It's just not the right way to end that record," he said.

By numbers alone, Winston played decently, completing 29 of 45 passes for 348 yards. His 18-yard touchdown pass to Travis Rudolph midway through the third quarter pulled the Seminoles within five points.

"We were moving the football," Coach Jimbo Fisher said, adding that his team "felt very comfortable with what we did, our game plan, execution."

But then came a torrent of mistakes — three fumbles and an interception — that broke the game open for the Ducks. Winston suffered the most embarrassing moment of the day with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter.

Flushed from the pocket, he scrambled to his right, then attempted to stop and throw. His foot slipped out ahead of him and the ball squirted backward. Oregon linebacker Tony Washington scooped up the fumble for a 58-yard touchdown return.

"I was just trying to make a play," Winston said. "I should have gotten the ball out of my hand earlier."

An interception on the ensuing drive wasn't really Winston's fault, his pass glancing off Rudolph's hands and landing in the arms of an Oregon defender.

Fisher spared his team leader any final indignity, inserting backup quarterback Sean Maguire with 6:18 remaining. In a season that saw Florida State engineer one wild comeback after another, Winston spent the last moments of this game watching from the side.

Teammates say he was gracious at the end.

"He told me to keep fighting," said Dalvin Cook, the freshman running back who had two fumbles. "It's good hearing something like that from him."

But the loss must have left Winston — a redshirt sophomore expected to jump to the NFL this spring — feeling out of sorts.


Speaking to reporters, he initially gave credit to the Oregon defense, then repeatedly said that Florida State had beaten itself. He insisted that, despite the 39-point margin of defeat, the game could have gone either way.

"It still ain't over yet," he said. "We can go and play again, honest."

And, for a player who has weathered off-the-field troubles throughout his college career, he showed a familiar sort of defiance. The pain of losing wasn't going to break him down.

"Hopefully I've got a long life ahead of me," he said. "I don't plan on dying today."

Twitter: @LATimesWharton