NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Should Florida State find itself in position of needing a long field goal to beat Auburn, Seminoles redshirt freshman kicker Roberto Aguayo said he’s not concerned.
Alabama went for such a kick Nov. 30, but the 57-yard attempt landed short, and the Tigers’ Chris Davis returned the miss 109 yards after time expired for a 34-28 victory.
“I’m always doing tackling drills at practice, so I’m ready for that,” Aguayo said. “If I would’ve missed, I would’ve had the distance, at least.”
No. 1 Florida State plays second-ranked Auburn on Monday in the Bowl Championship Series title game at Rose Bowl Stadium.
Aguayo received the Lou Groza Award this season, which goes to the nation’s top kicker. He made all 90 extra points and 19 of 20 field goals, his longest 53 yards against Syracuse.
His 147 points were eight more than Florida State’s opponents have scored, extending the Seminoles’ tradition of signing excellent kickers, such as Graham Gano and Sebastian Janikowski, previous Groza winners who are in the NFL.
Scott Bentley’s 22-yard field goal with 21 seconds left in the Orange Bowl gave the Seminoles the 1993 national championship.
But Florida State also has a history of heartbreaking misses, with field goals sailing right in 1991 and 1992 against Miami that cost the Seminoles potential shots at national championships.
Should Aguayo find himself needing to make such a kick against Auburn, he said his strong season has given him confidence to step up.
“Your confidence has to be up either way,” Aguayo said. “If you have a rough practice or a rough week, you’ve got to take that out of the bag and go in there with confidence.”
■ TOP TURNAROUND — Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was honored Saturday night by the Football Writers Association of America and the Fiesta Bowl for being this season’s Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year.
He orchestrated the nation’s top turnaround, taking a Tigers team that had gone from 3-9 last season to 12-1 entering the championship game.
“This has been just a true joy for me to watch the team grow,” Malzahn said. “We had a lot of question marks coming into this season. Our coaches really weren’t for sure what we had. And I think some of our players felt the same way with everything they went through last year.
“It’s a huge challenge to improve each game, but our guys found a way to do it, and they’ve just been a blessing to coach. They’ve done everything our coaches have asked them to do with the right attitude, on the field, off the field.”
Malzahn is finishing his first season as Auburn’s coach, but he also served as the offensive coordinator from 2009 to 2011. In 2010, the Tigers won the national championship behind Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
Their slide began the next season with an 8-5 record, and then came the awful record last year.
Malzahn said he believed a better foundation has been established moving forward from this season.
“I just think you can tell our program is going the right direction,” he said. “I feel very good. I think our best years are ahead.
“We have the right coaches, and our players, we’re a young team. 2010, it was completely different.”
■ SHARED SUCCESS — Much has been made of the Southeastern Conference’s streak of seven BCS championships being on the line. The SEC, in fact, has won the title each year of the BCS’ existence, which ends after this game as college football moves to a playoff system.
But the SEC isn’t the only entity with something historic on the line.
The state of Alabama has won the past four national championships, with the Crimson Tide claiming victory the past two seasons and in 2009. And, of course, Auburn won in 2010.
Also, Florida State is making its fourth appearance in the BCS championship game, tying Oklahoma for the best ever. The Seminoles are chasing their third national title overall, which would tie Florida and Texas for ninth best.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.