It was on this same Rose Bowl field a year ago that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston first displayed his penchant for pulling rabbits out of hats. Turns out that trick does not extend to ducks.
The Seminoles’ 29-game losing streak ended with a resounding thud Thursday night as No. 2 Oregon blew out third-ranked Florida State 59-20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinal.
Oregon led 18-13 after a rip-roaring first half defined by a fourth-and-1 option play where Winston extended for what was originally ruled a touchdown but reversed upon review.
Florida State accepted the ball to start the second half, moved down the field swiftly, and then turned it over at the Oregon 31-yard line on a Dalvin Cook fumble. Oregon needed only five plays to capitalize with a touchdown.
This would become a theme for the rest of the second half.
Winston hit Travis Rudolph for an 18-yard touchdown to pull Florida State back within 25-20, but Oregon immediately raced 81 yards in five plays, with Darren Carrington taking care of the last 56 by himself on a catch-and-run from Mariota (390 total yards, three touchdowns). Trailing 32-20 in late in the third quarter, Winston hit Cook for a 10-yard completion but the freshman again fumbled the ball, and Mariota again found Carrington, this time for 30 yards, to break the game wide open at 39-20.
Then, facing a 4th-and-the season at the Oregon 30, Winston pump faked, slipped, lost the ball, and watched Tony Washington race 58 yards to put the game and Florida State’s repeat bid out of reach with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Two more turnovers, a Winston interception that bounced off the hands of Ereck Dargan and a Jesus Wilson fumble, ballooned the lead to 59-20 with more than 10 minutes to play. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit provided the eulogy: “Florida State has quit.”
Five of Florida State’s first six second-half possessions ended in turnovers, and Oregon’s first five possessions ended in touchdowns. That is how the ‘Noles never-say-die streak ended and, truly, that was the only way it could end.
And in the end, Oregon treated the defending national champions just like it treated California, and Washington State, and Oregon State, and the most of the Pac-12 throughout this run that’s seen the Ducks win everything but a national championship.
A week from Monday, they’ll play for one.