The Team of Destiny fell short in the BCS National Championship Game to the Team of Determination.
Auburn -- no stranger to incredible finishes -- lost 34-31 to unbeaten Florida State, which drove 80 yards in the final 1:11 to clinch the win. It capped an incredible final 4:31 of the game, in which the lead changed hands three times.
The loss denied Auburn its third national title, having won in 1957 and 2010.
"I'm very proud of my team," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said, "how far they've come from the very first game to gettign here, and just being on the brink of winning the whole thing. I'm very proud of them.
"At the same time, we've got a lot of competitors in that locker room and a lot of disappointment. They're disappointed."
Playing in Rose Bowl stadium, the home of college football's oldest bowl game, Monday's contest marked the final championship game of the 16-year BCS era, which gives way to the four-team College Football Playoff next year. It will feature two semifinal games in Padadena and New Orleans with the finals in Arlington, Texas.
The Southeastern Conference saw its seven-year win streak in the BCS Championship Game end.
"I apologize to the Auburn family," Auburn's Tre Mason said afterward. "We didn't finish. We didn't finish what we started."
Auburn appeared ready to grab the championship with 1:19 to go. It was Mason -- who teammate Dee Ford said was being too hard on himself -- who rushed up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown, giving Auburn a 31-27 lead. That was his final carry of the night, and it gave him 195 yards for the game and 1,816 for the year, which is an Auburn single-season record. Bo Jackson set the old mark with 1,786 during his Heisman-winning season in 1985.
But Florida State managed one-last touchdown drive, capping it with Heisman-winner Jameis Winston's 2-yard scoring pass to Kelvin Benjamin, who was defended by Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis. It gave FSU the lead for good with 13 seconds remaining.
The Tigers needed only a second to beat Alabama with Davis' touchdown return, but this time, they couldn't manage another amazing finish.
Still, the season still included the largest turnaround in college football history, rebounding from a 3-9 mark to 12-2 and the brink of a national championship.
"It was an amazing journey, and I'm proud to be an Auburn Tiger," Auburn defensive end Dee Ford said.
Florida State hadn't won a national title since 1999 and hadn't played in the BCS Championship Game since losing to Oklahoma in 2000. The Seminoles topped a 14-0 season with the closest game of its season. FSU won all of its regular-season games by at least 14.
"I think it was the first game this year we had become outcome-oriented," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We were worrying about the scoreboard and not the next play. In an environment like this, that's something you've got to go through."
After a slow start, in which Florida State fell behind 21-3, Winston finished with 237 passing yards on 20-of-35 passing. He won Offensive Most Valuable Player honors.
Florida State's P.J. Williams won Defensive MVP honors, making seven tackles and a fourth-quarter interception that set up a touchdown.
Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at @MarkSportsStar.