"I was like, 'There's nothing to lose now,'" Winston said. "I already messed up."
With the help of a fake punt that kept the drive alive, Winston drove the Seminoles for their first touchdown late in the half. Fisher called shorter passes, trying to find a rhythm for his quarterback and his offense.
With Auburn punter Steven Clark pinning Florida State inside the 20 time and again, the Seminoles needed a quarterback with patience. They drove 67 yards in the third quarter just to kick a 41-yard field goal.
But in the fourth quarter, after the Seminoles played uphill all night, Winston sandwiched two touchdown drives around Kermit Whitfield's 100-yard kickoff return.
"He stayed poised throughout the game," said Chris Weinke, another Florida State quarterback who won a national championship (1999) and a Heisman (2000). "Things didn't go their way. They adapted. ... At halftime, Jimbo said, 'Stick to the plan. It's not about emotion. It's not about the outcome. Stick to the plan.' It's not always about taking a shot down the field. Get patience. Complete balls. Move the chains."
Weinke said this, too: "He's as good a young quarterback as I've ever seen."
Former Seminole All-American tailback Warrick Dunn stood on the field after the game looking at the national champions on the portable stage. "He grew up," Dunn said of Winston, "not having the best game, but he did enough to help his team, to put them in position. He showed a lot of resilience. He had his leadership. He grew up tonight."
On the game's biggest stage in the sport's grandest stadium, Jameis Winston showed one more way in which he is talented beyond his years. Winston proved he didn't need his best stuff to win.