TALLAHASSEE -- If there were any questions about how Jameis Winston would handle himself against Syracuse after a tumultuous week, he answered them quickly Saturday.
It was business as usual in Tallahassee. Winston was his typical, unflappable self as the Seminoles rolled the Orange 59-3.
Syracuse wasted no time testing the redshirt freshman’s resolve, deferring after winning the coin toss and kicking the ball to Winston and the Seminole offense. As the public-address announcer called Winston’s name and the redshirt freshman trotted onto the field, he received the same boisterous rumble from the Doak Campbell Stadium faithful that he has all season.
Then — in much the same vein — he went to work dismantling the Syracuse secondary, much as he has done to opposing secondaries all year.
It was business as usual.
“Always,” said a smiling Winston after the game. “Always, that’s how we go into every game; we prepare the same, and we came out victorious. That’s what we want.”
Winston was 5 for 5 on Florida State’s opening drive for 74 yards as FSU scored in a little over two and a half minutes. The 6-4, 225-pound quarterback didn’t miss on a pass until the second quarter, going 10 for 10 for 170 yards and a touchdown while the Seminoles built a 28-0 first-quarter lead.
“I thought we came out very focused and, again, started very fast and got a great opening drive and were able to make a couple big plays, get control of the game, and we were able to execute,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.
By the time the first half was over, FSU led 38-0, Winston was 19 of 21 for 277 yards and two touchdowns, and his day was over. He watched the second half from the Florida State sideline while fellow redshirt freshman Sean Maguire played the rest of the afternoon.
Defensively, it was business as usual for Florida State, too.
The Seminoles’ first-team defense held the Orange scoreless and limited it to 68 first-half yards. Coming into the game, Syracuse was averaging over 200 yards per game; against Florida State’s starting defense, it eked out just 5 yards on the ground in the first half.
“That’s one of the best teams I’ve seen in my 23 years of coaching,” Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. “They are big, they are fast, they are talented and they know what they are doing.”
This would have been an easy game for Florida State to sleepwalk through. A tidal wave of distractions broke on the Seminoles midweek in the form of sexual assault allegations against Winston, and suddenly a game against a 5-4 Syracuse team felt like the last thing on anyone’s mind.
Even the planned pre-game tribute to the 1993 FSU National Championship team seemed to fall on the backburner.
But Florida State’s focus apparently never wavered. The Seminoles rallied around one another mid-week and came out with one of their most impressive wins of the year. The offense totaled 523 yards, the defense forced two turnovers and caused three sacks, and despite holding the ball over 23 minutes longer than the Seminoles, all the Orange offense could muster was three points on a 20-play, 66-yard drive against FSU’s backups.
“It’s the way that we prepare, the way we practice” said senior linebacker Telvin Smith. “Coach Fisher does a great job of just making practices tough and as hard as it can possibly be. Every day, Monday through Friday.”
That was especially true this week — and it wasn’t just Coach Fisher making things hard, either — but FSU came out of the tunnel looking as sharp as ever.
It was business as usual.