With more distractions swirling around him, Jameis Winston was nearly flawless, throwing for 317 yards and three touchdowns, Mario Pender scored twice, and top-ranked Florida State beat Syracuse 38-20 on Saturday.
Florida State (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won a school-record 22 straight games, the longest streak in the nation, and 19 in a row in the conference.
The Orange (2-4, 0-2 ACC) lost their fourth straight, again saddled by too many failures in the red zone, scoring one touchdown in four trips inside the Florida State 20 behind two rookie quarterbacks who combined to throw three interceptions.
Rarely pressured, Winston finished 30 of 36 and earned his fifth 300-yard passing game on the road. Tight end Nick O'Leary had a career-high eight catches for 97 yards and one touchdown.
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The game was played with more controversy surrounding Winston. Florida State University on Friday decided to publicly detail its own timeline of events since Winston was accused of sexual assault in December 2012.
The school also is investigating Winston for a possible code of conduct violation involving the alleged sexual assault, and the Department of Education is investigating the university on how it handles reports of sexual assault after Winston's accuser filed a complaint.
Not a problem again for the Heisman Trophy winner. Halfway through his second season in college, Winston's play has not suffered.
Rashad Greene, who had a concussion a week ago, was cleared to play and caught six passes for 107 yards and passed Ron Sellers (1966-68) for most career receptions at Florida State. Greene's fourth reception was a 9-yarder that set up Winston's 7-yard touchdown pass to Jesus "Bobo" Wilson midway through the third quarter. It was his record-setting 213th catch.
Dalvin Cook scored on a 7-yard run early in the fourth to boost FSU's lead to 38-13.
The Orange were up against it from the start, playing with a quarterback making his first college start and a new offensive coordinator. Quarterbacks coach Tim Lester replaced George McDonald as offensive coordinator early in the week and backup quarterbacks Austin Wilson and A.J. Long took over for injured starter Terrel Hunt, out 4-6 weeks with a broken calf bone.
Long was 16 of 27 for 167 yards and two touchdowns to Steve Ishmael, 22 yards in the third quarter and 35 in the fourth. Long also made a rookie mistake, throwing an interception deep in Florida State territory late in the third. The pick by Nate Andrews at the FSU 8 came after Wilson mishandled a punt and Sam Rodgers recovered for Syracuse at the Florida State 21.
Wilson was 5 of 9 for 89 yards before leaving the game with an injury.
Florida State played with redshirt freshman Ryan Hoefeld at center after senior starter Austin Barron was lost for an undisclosed amount of time with an arm injury. Backup quarterback Sean Maguire also was hurt and not available, leaving redshirt freshman John Franklin and walk-on Troy Cook as the options for coach Jimbo Fisher.
They weren't needed.
Winston guided the Seminoles to a 7-0 lead on the game's opening drive, completing all five passes for 38 yards before Pender scored on a 12-yard run.
It looked too easy against a defense that has been Syracuse's strong point all season.
The Orange responded with a solid drive as Wilson looked calm in his first college start. He hit Jarrod West for 13 yards, Ben Lewis for 15, and Adrian Flemming for 12 as Syracuse moved deep into Seminoles territory.
The drive ended abruptly when Jalen Ramsey intercepted Wilson on the left side at the 12-yard line and returned it 27 yards. Roberto Aguayo's 34-yard field goal gave FSU a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Long, a freshman who had never taken a snap in a college game, then took over and guided the Orange to a 21-yard field goal. Speedy Ervin Phillips gained 16 yards around the right side and Long rolled right and hit Ishmael between two defenders for 36 yards to the Florida State 7.
The Orange offense, which had scored only one touchdown in the two previous games despite seven forced turnovers by the defense, failed again to punch it in and had to settle for Cole Murphy's short field goal early in the second.
Greene's 44-yard reception set up Pender's 4-yard touchdown catch for a 17-3 lead.
Syracuse's season-long failures in the red zone — the Orange entered the game with only nine touchdowns in 19 trips inside the 20 — continued after the defense forced yet another turnover. After Pender fumbled and Syracuse's John Raymon recovered at the FSU 16, a dropped pass and an incompletion forced Syracuse to settle for Murphy's 32-yard field goal midway through the second.
Winston responded with a six-play drive that took just 2:40, finishing it with a 21-yard scoring pass to a wide-open O'Leary.