By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Managing Editor
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — No. 10/9 Florida State’s lopsided 62-7 victory over Nevada Saturday was more than just the team’s second tally in the win column this season.
The Seminoles’ (2-0) triumphant 2013 home opener also provided answers to some key offensive questions moving forward.
With a record-breaking debut in his rearview, Jameis Winston, a redshirt freshman quarterback that has taken college football by storm, had yet to show what he could do when things weren’t going right. Against Pitt in the ‘Noles’ season opener, Winston had just two incompletions and, other than briefly playing from behind at the very beginning of the game, was never put in position to show his mental makeup in the face of adversity.
Against the Wolf Pack (1-2), he got that chance.
After throwing his first career interception and more incompletions in the first quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium than he did in all four against the Panthers, Winston found his team trailing 7-3 in the second quarter in front of an unhappy crowd. As he came to the sideline, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher had a simple message for his young pupil.
“Go higher,” Winston said. “Adversity is here; how are you going to respond?”
A final stat-line of 15-of-18 for 214 yards and three total touchdowns as the ‘Noles scored 59 unanswered points means that Winston responded by completing all 13 of his final passes for 184 yards following Fisher’s brief words of advice.
“Adversity, you can’t live on that,” Winston said. “You’ve got to keep going.”
And keep going he did. Aided by his playmaking wide receivers, a stable of capable tailbacks and the blocking up front, Winston connected on a pair of 24-yard touchdown passes to Kenny Shaw andRashad Greene in the second quarter that put the Seminoles ahead for good.
His pinpoint pass to Christian Green moments after the Shaw touchdown grab that set up Greene’s score was the type of throw that won’t soon be forgotten. And his 10-yard scamper to pay dirt on the heels of a third-quarter Tyler Hunter interception further his proved the threat his poses as as a passer and runner.
In total, FSU’s offense racked up 617 yards at a clip of 9.8 yards per play while the defense allowed just 214 yards at 3.5 yards per Nevada snap.
On the ground, juniors Karlos Williams and Devonta Freeman ran for 110 and 109 yards, respectively, with one score each while true freshmen Ryan Green added 78 late-game yards and one touchdown and fellow rookie Freddie Stevensonposted one more running score. Shaw added 94 yards and his touchdown grab and Greene andKelvin Benjamin combined for 76 yards and a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, Terrance Brooks andLamarcus Joyner both had six tackles as 24 different defenders registered stops.
“We dealt with adversity very well, we adjusted on the sideline well,” Fisher said. “… I loved the way our players responded. A lot of young guys touched the ball tonight. Defensively a lot of guys got in the game and made plays.”
Including Williams, who made news during FSU’s bye week thanks to a position switch from safety to running back.
While Winston’s ability to handle adversity was the prevailing question entering the showdown with the Wolf Pack, Williams’ role as a runner was the other. But after spending two seasons as a backup safety before being added to a depth chart that already featured proven players in Freeman and James Wilder, Jr., Williams wasted little time in showing just what he brings to the tailback rotation: speed, size and explosion.
Oh, and the ability to score from anywhere on the field and touchdown on a sweep to the right that he had been working on all week at practice.
“Kelvin [Benjamin] and Rashad [Greene] looked at me and said, ‘When you catch the ball, bro, just ride. Just run. Just run, run, run, run, run. Don’t look back, don’t cut, don’t shake. Get the ball, head to the sideline and just run,'” Williams said. “And I did exactly what they told me and it led me to a touchdown.”
Added Fisher: “[Williams] is a talented cat, now. He’s very dynamic with the ball. He’s big, strong and explosive [and] he’s natural. When he gets space he can hit home runs and he’s hard to tackle because he’s a big, physical guy.”
Florida State returns to Doak Campbell Stadium Sept. 21 where it will host Bethune-Cookman at 6 p.m. on ESPN3.