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Florida State's Levonte Whitfield has speed to spare

His 100-yard touchdown return in the BCS title game is reminiscent of his state track double in the sprints as a high school senior last year.

January 06, 2014|By Mike Hiserman
  • Florida State receiver Kermit Whitfield nears the goal line to complete a 100-yard kickoff return with 4:31 left in the fourth quarter to give the Seminoles a 27-24 lead in the BCS title game.
Florida State receiver Kermit Whitfield nears the goal line to complete… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

If Levonte "Kermit" Whitfield looked fast as he sprinted 100 yards for a Florida State touchdown on a fourth-quarter kickoff return Monday, there's a good reason.

He's really just that fast.

According to the game clock, Whitfield, a freshman, covered the distance in 11 seconds — a little slower than what he ran for 100 meters to win the Florida state high school sprint championship last spring during track.

Whitfield also won a state title at 200 meters.

Now he's a football champion too, as his return helped the top-ranked Seminoles defeat Auburn, 34-31, in the Bowl Championship Series title game before 94,208 at the Rose Bowl.

SUMMARY: Florida State 34, Auburn 31

Whitfield entered the game averaging 30.8 yards in 13 returns this season.

Against Auburn, he caught the ball at the goal line, broke straight up the field, headed to the left sideline at about the 20, and scored untouched.

The touchdown put Florida State up, 27-24 with 4 minutes 31 seconds to play.

Golden indeed

Executive Director Bill Hancock described the 16 years of the BCS as "a golden era for college football" at a Football Writers Assn. of America awards breakfast in Newport Beach.

"I'm proud of our track record and I'm proud of BCS," Hancock said. "It matched No. 1 and 2, enhanced the regular reason, it improved the bowl system and it introduced new schools to top-tier bowl games."

Air of contention

Before the game, a plane flew around the Rose Bowl delivering a message from the All Players United campaign.

It read, "All Players United for Concussion Reform. Wake Up NCAA!"

The group wants the NCAA to take steps to better protect college players.

Sign of old times

The students of Caltech tried to get in the title game action by erecting a sign in the hills north and west of the Rose Bowl that read "PASADENA" in large white letters before the game — a la the famous Hollywood sign.

At halftime, those letters changed to a bright red CALTECH.

Former Dodger makes a catch

Melvin Ray, a former outfielder in the Dodgers farm system, was on the receiving end of Auburn's longest pass play of the night — a 50-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter.

Ray had four catches for 58 yards for the season coming into the game.

Ray signed with the Dodgers as a 33rd-round draft choice out of a Tallahassee, Fla. high school in 2008, but he never rose above the rookie-league level.

Ray left baseball after the 2010 season with a career average of .184 with two home runs in 196 at-bats.

Secret weapon

Had Auburn been able to hold off Florida State, punter Steven Clark might have been an unsung hero.

Clark punted six times for a 43.2-yard average, but more importantly he pinned Florida State inside its own 10 three times.

Twice his punts landed inside the one-yard line.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeHiserman

Staff writer Chris Dufresne contributed to this report.

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