Auburn didn't win the national championship in the game that ended the 16-year BCS era, but maybe some day the Tigers can take heart in knowing they played in such a classic.
They lost 34-31 to Florida State, but Monday night's game provided more genuine excitement than most of the preceeding BCS finals. Maybe the only BCS Championship Game that gave us more thrills than Auburn and Florida State was eight years ago when Vince Young-led Texas beat Southern California 41-38 for the title. The Rose Bowl stadium hosted that one, too, by the way.
This one had the theme of redemption in the prelude to the game. Auburn was coming off a 3-9 season and proving it could win big again even after Cam Newton had left for the NFL.
Florida State, one of college football's most dominant teams in the 1980s and '90s, had itself in the national title game for the first time in 13 years. The Seminoles also had the Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston, who bypassed Auburn to head to FSU.
The whole thing had the same vibe as Miami and Alabama in 1992 when those two teams met in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama, a big underdog, hammered Miami, which had the Heisman winner that year, too.
It started out that way, too, with Auburn leading 21-3, and the Tigers seemed thisclose to ripping this one wide open. Only a touchdown drive helped along by a successful fake punt kept Florida State in the ballgame heading into halftime.
Then it seemed as if we bided time until that incredible final quarter, when the lead changed hands three times in the final 4:31.
FSU scored a touchdown to make it 21-20. Auburn got a field goal, and it was 24-20. Then Florida State's Kermit Whitfield pulled off a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. A 5-foot-7, 178-pound freshman, he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, according to his school bio. That's easy to believe.
Auburn went back ahead when Tre Mason plowed through FSU for a 37-yard touchdown. Florida State won by driving 80 yards for its third touchdown of the fourth quarter.
No more miracles left for Auburn.
But what a run.
Afterward, Tre Mason offered an apology to the Auburn family for not bringing home that last win.
He has nothing to apologize for. Heck, not only did he provide a driving force for pushing Auburn to the championship game, he was one of the few bright spots in last year's dreadful season.
His teammate, Dee Ford, said Mason was being too hard on himself, but both are competitors and were expecting to win, especially when they had come so close.
Certainly, it's hard to hear now how they shouldn't be so disappointed. It's hard to hear about how this was such a great game. To them, it was a loss on the most important stage of the season.
But this game was worth something. It had all the elements of a great game.
And maybe some day down the road, they can take a little pride in this one.
Especially when they see the highlights on ESPN for years and years to come.
Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at @MarkSportsStar.