The empty sense of disappointment that arrived in the wake of Ohio State’s 2014 Discover Orange Bowl loss Friday night stayed with me throughout the entire weekend. There was no consoling, nothing to make me truly forget about it.
I didn’t think watching Monday night’s BCS National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn could possibly make me feel any better. That was the game I wanted the Buckeyes to play in, the one they were so tantalizingly close to. It could only remind me how their season ended, right?
Instead of making me think back on OSU’s shortcomings in South Florida, the 2014 National Championship Game lifted the dark cloud from above my head, and gave us 60 minutes of college football at its very best.
It didn’t seem like it at first, though. Auburn’s backfield duo of junior quarterback Nick Marshall and junior running back Tre Mason spent the first half seemingly confirming the national suspicion that Florida State’s impressive record was just the result of a weak schedule. An SEC blowout — not unlike last year — was on the cards.
The SEC had dominated for so long, and it looked like it was going to continue. In a season that had seen countless pundits write off teams like Florida State and OSU because they didn’t play in a certain conference, the Buckeyes had lost their chance to silence those doubters, and now it looked like the Seminoles had too.
But things changed, dramatically. Auburn couldn’t pull away, and the result was a fourth quarter for the ages. After a Tigers field goal, the Seminoles took their first lead in nearly 45 minutes with an electrifying kickoff return from freshman wide receiver Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield. Then Auburn hit right back through the unstoppable Mason. A little more than a minute remained, and again Florida State’s time had almost run out.
Cue a seven-play, 80-yard drive, defined by this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, redshirt-freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. His beautiful touchdown pass to the leaping redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin with only 13 seconds left put the proper exclamation on an exhilarating 34-31 Seminole victory.
It was everything a championship game should be: heavyweight fight, chess match, and epic drama all rolled into one. It wasn’t so much about two teams as much as it was about the sport as a whole, a one-of-the-kind sight that could only take place on the gridiron.
All the hits, touchdowns and cheers that populate a college football season led to this. From the comfortable Saturdays in late summer to the frigid temperatures of the past few weeks, everything from the past four months built up to make Monday’s game what it was.
So rather than dwell on those two losses that some might say defined this season’s Buckeye squad, the beauty of the National Championship game allowed to me to remember that one single moment can’t sum up a team’s season, because so much goes into it.
But what happened in the Rose Bowl Stadium certainly came closest to defining that one thing we all love: college football.