PASADENA, Calif. — Coming into Monday's BCS championship game, Melvin Ray had only four receptions for 58 yards this season.
He nearly matched that with his first catch Monday. Auburn's sophomore receiver hauled in a 50-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Nick Marshall that pushed its lead to 14-3 over Florida State. And it's likely that Ray hasn't had many easier catches in his life, as he was 15 yards ahead of any Seminole defender when he reeled in Marshall's pass.
He still had to do some work, though, juking one defender at the 2-yard line as he stepped into the end zone.
Ironically, the career-long scoring play for Ray came against the school from his hometown; the sophomore is a native of Tallahassee, Fla.
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The score was also significant in BCS championship game history, marking the longest touchdown in a national title game since Chris Wells ran for a 65-yard score against LSU in 2008.
Monday's BCS championship game was the second-farthest west that Auburn has gone for a football game.
The farthest was a 2002 game against Southern California, which was played in the Los Angeles Coliseum, which is about 15 miles West of the Rose Bowl stadium. Auburn lost 24-17 to open the season.
This was the fourth time Auburn has played a bowl game in the Pacific time zone, to go with the 1968 and 1973 Sun Bowls in El Paso, Texas, and the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz., three years ago. The Tigers beat Arizona in the 1968 Sun Bowl and lost to Missouri in the 1973 game. In the BCS game three years ago, Auburn beat Oregon 22-19.
Rookie of the year
For the 2013 season, 31 FBS programs hired new football coaches, including Auburn. Only 10 had winning records, and no coach won more games than Auburn's Gus Malzahn.
Malzahn finished with 12 wins, tied for most wins among first-year head coaches along with Northern Illinois' Rod Carey, who went 12-2. Oregon's Mark Helfrich was 11-2. Wisconsin's Gary Anderson, Utah State's Matt Wells and Cincinnati's Tommy Tuberville each won nine.
Bobby Petrino of Western Kentucky and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury each had eight wins, and Boston College's Steve Addazio and Syracuse's Scott Shafer won seven apiece.
Florida State's Bobby Bowden and Auburn's Bo Jackson served as honorary captains for Monday's game.
John Legend sang the national anthem, and his wife, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen, came to the game with him. Also spotted on the sidelines was San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Hudson, who is a former Auburn standout.
In addition, former Heisman Trophy winners Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Eddie George (Ohio State) and Tim Tebow (Florida) attended the game. So did former NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes, a former Auburn player.
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez also posted a picture of himself at the game with several people he referred to as former high school classmates.
It marked a difference from a former friend who is portrayed as a rival: Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who attended an Alabama game earlier this season and watched from the sidelines.