First of all, I'd like to thank Pasadena and the Rose Bowl for an incredible venue and our fans and the country around us, the support we've had this year. This has been a first class trip. They have done everything under the sun to make our trip unbelievable. I mean, we don't get a chance to come out in this part of the country very much. Very blessed. Also I'd like to say Auburn, they're a great program, great tradition and a great league.
I have to say it's been a four year evolution to put ourselves in this opportunity. We talked about being a program and we wanted to do things right and we wanted to build the foundation and these guys have given their hearts and souls to us as coaches, and it's been unbelievable.
This team, these players, what we've went through the last three, four years, losing 11 guys in the draft, six new coaches but these guys believed and kept going. And I want to say a special thank you to this senior group. This is the group when I went to recruit them as a first time head coach who never had anything out there and they believed in me and this staff to come here and believe the dream which we were telling them we had an opportunity to do. This group is an unbelievable group, not only because it how it plays about but how it affects everybody on the team with their attitudes, their abilities. They make everybody better. It's a group that will always be remembered in my heart, I promise.
Life is good and bad, expectations, striving. We've accomplished a lot and I'm very proud. But we've gotten an expectation now. We've gotten to the elite level and a standard which we don't want to go below. Hopefully we've arrived ourselves back as a program right now. It was a great night, very happy. Our assistant coaches were unbelievable keeping our guys together during the game to keep the poise so we could execute and do the things we needed to do. Our players believed. They kept their heads down and kept working. It's just a tribute to everybody involved in the organization. I'd like to say a special thank you to them.
Jameis leads that game winning drive, he hasn't done that all year. What poise did you see from him in that drive? It's the best football game he played all year, and I'll tell you why, because for three quarters he was up and down, and he fought. And just like any great player, some nights you don't have it. When you can go back like the great ones do, it's not my night but we've got a chance to win this ballgame, it's in the fourth quarter, I've got one or two touches left and you can take your team down the field and lead them to victory, that's what a great player is to me. Anybody can do it when it's their 'A' game night. A lot of guys can do that. Very few can do it when it's not their night. And to pull it out in the atmosphere and environment and with what was on the line tonight, to me if that's not a great player, I don't know what one is.
Can you talk about that decision to go for that fake punt? To me it seemed like that really turned the game around for you guys. We lost momentum in the game, it was 21-3. I knew with five minutes to go if they got it back and scored, the game could be over right there before half. I knew we had the ball coming out the second half and we're here to win this thing. We weren't here just to show up and play well. And I thought that's what we had to do to gain the momentum of the game back, and it worked and we got it, went down, got the drive and then got back in the ballgame, and hopefully that's what changed the momentum of the game and got our confidence back.
Coach, I'll just ask you about Kermit Whitfield and that turn. Kermit is a big time player. He's a 10.1 in the 100 meters, third fastest 100 meters in high school history. But this guy is going to be a big time player. He has great hips, great acceleration, he's learning our offense and getting the touches, but in the open field he's as dynamic as anybody in America. He's as good as anybody I've ever been around and to do it at that stage - our team blocked very well - but he has that finishing speed and I think the sky's the limit for that guy in his whole career here at Florida State.
Why didn't Jameis have his 'A' game? What was Auburn doing? They kept things mixed up. I think they got pressure on him. They covered tightly, and we dropped some balls. We had some critical drops in the game. Rashad played a great game. He had a whip route he would have called, and went out the sideline, probably would have been 40, 50 yards. KB had a couple critical drops, and we were just pressing. I think this is the first time this year we got outcome oriented, in other words we were worrying about the scoreboard not just playing the next play, and I think you get in these environments, you have to go through that. And that's part of learning as a young player, but then to be able to adjust on that day and still get back and be great, to me that's big time.
It looked like early on once you got pinned inside the 5 that was really where you lost a lot of rhythm? Exactly right.
And didn't get it back initially. Can you talk about what you did both owe maybe on a motivational side and scheme side to get that rhythm back? Well, we lost the field position battle in the game. We were pinned back inside the 20 probably five or six times in the ballgame. And you got to be careful. We didn't want to give the ballgame away and we weren't making enough good plays. But again, getting the rhythm back again I think the fake punt got us back and got the confidence right before half. We went to some shorter throws, getting the ball out of his hands so he didn't have to hold it, didn't have to protect as long, get him in a rhythm, hit what we call pressure switches and got out there and got some field position, and then after that we started believing in halftime. And at halftime, we went in and we didn't feel bad, because we hadn't played well at all, we're down 21 10, we're right in the ballgame, we got the ball coming out, we're not where you want to be in the lead, but we felt very confident where we were. And we told our guys at halftime, this is what you remember, coming back, you just got to keep your poise and battle back. The momentum got switched, I think, with the fake punt.
Can you talk about your defense's performance, especially in that third quarter where they held them to 19 yards rushing? Big time. Our defense allowed the offense to get back in the game. In the first half it was more of us - we had some older guys just miss some assignments, had a couple critical mistakes and checks and things that were very uncharacteristic. I think we all got caught up in the moment a little bit. And then they settled down at halftime and in that third quarter, they were totally dominant, I mean, very dominant in the game which allowed us on offense to get the ball back a couple times, win the field position battle because they weren't getting 1st downs and then punting us down inside the 10 or 20, and then we could call good plays and be more aggressive in our play calls from the field position. But our defense, this is a complete team effort. I say this all the time, people say defense wins championships. Great teams win championships. Tonight our defense had its moments, our offense had its moments, and our special teams had its moments. We had the fake punt, the return, our defense was dominant in the second half. The offense got going when it had to. To me that's what it was all about, and this is a complete football team.
Coach, what does this mean to you personally to finally have one as a head coach and what does it mean to Florida State in general? I'll think about that later. I'm just happy right now for our players and our assistant coaches and our fans. That's for down the road we'll think about that in years later on, but I don't try to live like that. In two days I want to get ready to go win another one. I want to get ready to go win one next year and get us going. We'll reflect when we're done, but I'm happy for these players and coaches and fans to hold their heads high. I'm happy for our conference. The ACC is good football, folks. It's great football. It's a great football conference. We have a great commissioner, we have great football, we have great coaches we've got great players, and I'm happy for the ACC because what Clemson did the other night, Duke played a tremendous game, we had 11 teams in bowl games, I'm happy. The SEC is great football, I coached in that league for 13 years, I respect every bit of it, but there's some other folks in this country that can play some football, too.