Auburn Coach Pat Dye said his seventh ranked Tigers failed to avoid the turnovers that plagued them in their 1987 loss to No. 4 Florida State.
The Seminoles, intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble in the first quarter, jumped into an early 13-0 lead Monday night and held on for a 13-7 victory in the Sugar Bowl.
"It was sure frustrating for me," Dye said. "The way they started in the first quarter totally shocked me. It was totally uncharacteristic of our football team. I felt we were ahead at halftime by being behind just by just six points."
The Seminoles, 11-1, had a total of five takeaways _ the final one an interception by All-America cornerback Deion Sanders in the Florida State end zone with five seconds left.
"There's no quarterback who can pick on me," said Sanders, who has a reputation for taunting opponents. "That last play was like a storybook ending."
The Seminoles took the opening kickoff and drove 84 yards for their lone touchdown, a 2-yard plunge by Dayne Williams. Tailback Sammie Smith had 47 of his 115 rushing yards on the drive.
The Seminoles added field goals of 35 and 31 yards by Bill Mason. The first, coming with 5:57 left in the first quarter, was set up by an interception by Stan Shiver. The second, coming with four minutes into the second quarter, set up by an interception by Dedrick Hodge.
Smith didn't score, as a 69-yard run with a screen pass early in the third quarter was nullified by a holding call. But the 224-pound junior kept coming up with crucial yardage when the Seminoles needed it to maintain drives.
All of the scoring in the game came in the first half. Auburn, 10-2, got its only points with 4:04 left in the second quarter on a 20-yard TD pass from Reggie Slack to Walter Reeves.
The Seminoles mounted a drive early in the final quarter when they had a third down at the Auburn 1. But quarterback Chip Ferguson's bad pitch to Smith enabled Auburn's Quentin Riggins to recover at the Tigers' 18.
Auburn drove to the Florida State 13, but couldn't capitalize and were pushed back to the 36 when Slack was sacked on a fourth-down play. The Tigers, starting at their own 3, came storming downfield on Slack's passes in the closing three minutes, but the drive ended when Sanders' made his end zone interception.
Florida State's early margin easily could have been wider, as the Seminoles completely dominated the first 19 minutes.
Three plays after Williams scored, Shiver intercepted Slack at the Auburn 44 and returned the ball 11 yards. The Seminoles appeared to have a first down at the Auburn 4, but were pushed back by a holding penalty and wound up settling for Mason's first field goal.
On Auburn's next possession, nose guard Odell Haggins recovered a Stacy Danley fumble at the Auburn 29 and the Seminoles had a third-and-goal at the Tigers' 2. But they turned the ball over after two incompletions, the second on a fake field goal.
The interception by Dodge had the Seminoles at the Auburn 38 with 22 seconds left in the first quarter. They went to the Auburn 10 before being pushed back by a penalty and settling for Mason's second field goal.
"Our failure to score on the goal line almost lost us the game," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said. "We must have had nine chances inside their 10. We just flat blew four opportunities to score."
Auburn drove 51 yards for its only score. Slack, who wound up completing 19 of 33 passes for 162 yards, hit Reeves just shy of the goal line and the tight end dove into the right corner of the end zone.