The Auburn offense awoke from its first-quarter slumber. Until it was already down three scores, the Florida State offense did not, so the Tigers lead the Seminoles, 21-10, at the half of the BCS National Championship. The Tigers out-gained FSU, 232-156, and Auburn's disruptive front seven helped limit Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to six completions in 15 attempts for an average gain of just 4.1 yards.
Until a successful fake punt late in the second quarter sparked a Florida State touchdown drive, it looked like Auburn might be on its way to a blowout. Following the trick play, Winston led the Seminoles inside the Tigers' 10-yard-line using mostly his legs, and Devonta Freeman ran the ball in for a 3-yard touchdown to cap the 11-play, 66-yard drive -- just the Seminoles' second drive of 19 or more yards all night.
While FSU's offense continued to struggle, Auburn's offense began the second quarter by scorching the FSU secondary. On The Tigers' third offensive play of the second frame, Nick Marshall found Melvin Ray wide open across the middle, and the sophomore wide receiver took it 50 yards to the end zone.
GIF source: ESPN
The Seminoles went three-and-out on their next offensive possession and gave the ball right back to the Tigers, who went on a bruising 11-play, 46-yard drive. On fourth-and-3, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn decided to try a 33-yard field goal, but Cody Parkey pushed it wide right. It felt like the kind of mistake that might precipitate a quick-strike touchdown from the heavily favored Seminoles. Instead, Winston was stripped two plays later, and the Tigers got the ball right back at the 27-yard line. It only took six plays for Marshall to punch the ball into the end zone on a 4-yard zone-read keeper.
What has been most shocking is how well Auburn has been able to move the ball through the air. Thirteen pass attempts is a bit on the high side for the average Marshall outing, but the junior signal-caller already has that many through halftime.
Jameis Winston has four completions for positive yardage, all to Rashad Greene. Nick Marshall has seven, to seven receivers.— SB Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) January 7, 2014
Though the Tigers have only been able to move the ball at 4.1 yards a clip on the ground, they're in excellent position to begin wearing down the Seminoles as Malzahn's offense has done to so many teams this season. Winston will have a lot to say about whether that comes to pass, though. FSU gets to ball to start the second half, and a scoring drive to narrow the lead to 21-17 would help prevent Auburn from sitting on the ball for the rest of the game and trying to run out the clock.