Florida State (3-0) had little trouble beating the University of Tennessee-Martin (1-4) on Sunday afternoon. The Seminoles used a 20-4 first half run to put some distance between themselves and the Skyhawks and never looked back, winning handily 89-61.
Playing in special turquoise Nike N7 uniforms -- part of a Nike tribute to Native American culture -- FSU out-classed head coach Leonard Hamilton's alma mater on both ends of the floor on Sunday afternoon.
"Boy I think they're really good," said UT-Martin head coach Jason James. "I think their length gives people problems, I told coach before the game I think they have interchangable part but the difference between a lot of teams and them is their interchangable parts are 6-7, 6-8, 6-9, so you've got different guys that can do different things on the floor, they can play small... or they can play big. They're really talented."
UT-Martin played Florida State close through the first ten minutes -- it was 13-12 at the second media timeout -- but once the Seminoles got started on their run there was very little the Skyhawks could do.
"It was obvious we got off to a slow start in the game, that does concern me a little bit. I thought that we really picked it up in the latter part of the first half," said head coach Leonard Hamilton.
Ian Miller lead the way with 13 first-half points -- he would finish with 20 -- and FSU was shooting 53.6% when it headed into the locker-room with a 41-23 lead.
"It was just my teammates finding me, my teammates understand that if I make one, I can make two, I can make three, I can just go on and on," said Miller after the game. "The easy part is taking the shot, the hardest part is creating and Devin [Bookert] and those guys created open shots for me, they did a great job [this afternoon]."
It was more of the same in the second half as Florida State pulled away from UT-Martin and started to get deeper into its rotation. By the ten minute mark -- with FSU already well ahead -- the game essentially turned into a free-throw shooting contest. The officials called 28 UT-Martin fouls and FSU shot 39 free throws one the day -- hitting 30 of them. On the afternoon the Seminoles shot 58.7%.
It looked good for FSU defensively too. The Seminoles held the Skyhawks to just 35.3% shooting, forced 19 turnovers, -- including 11 steals -- blocked seven shots and only allowed UT-Martin to get to the free throw stripe ten times.
"We have grown up, we've gotten more mature," said sophomore G Aaron Thomas. "We're just trying to stay on the same page, no one is thinking about themselves we're just coming together as a team."
Thomas lead the defensive effort with six steals, he also scored a career-high 19 points and added two assists and a rebound off the bench.
Miller's 20 points and five assists lead the Seminole scoring, Okaro White had 17 points and four rebounds and Bookert had 13 points and five assists.
Next up for Florida State is a trip to Puerto Rico to for the Puerto Rico Tipoff Classic in San Juan, they'll face VCU on November 21st and either Long Beach State or Michigan the following day.
Notebook: Hamilton said that he doesn't feel this team has a starting five right now, he has nine players he feels comfortable giving minutes to... Aaron Thomas' career day was encouraging to Hamilton who has been concerned about how the new rules would affect his defensive system... FSU had 19 turnovers, something Hamilton said he was very concerned about... This was Leonard Hamilton's 200th win at FSU... Hamilton said after the game that despite playing his alma mater, he didn't get caught up in sentimental stuff, "it was a business date."
The AP and Coaches Polls are both out this morning and FSU holds steady at second in both.
The AP Poll features Alabama, FSU, Baylor, Ohio State and Oregon as their top five. Auburn is sixth, Clemson is seventh and Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M round out the top ten. Duke -- also representing the ACC -- debuts at 25th after beating Miami, who fell out.
In the Coaches' poll Alabama and FSU are 1-2 with Ohio State, Baylor and Oregon rounding out the top five. Clemson is sixth, and Auburn, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M round out their top ten. Duke is 24th, Miami is out.
FSU is gaining ground on Alabama too. Just 50 points divide the Seminoles and Tide in the AP poll and just 57 in the Coaches. The Seminoles dismantled Syracuse on Saturday, beating an ACC opponent by a final score of 59-3 for a second consecutive week. Alabama beat Mississippi State 20-7.
The new BCS standings are due out tonight at 8:30 PM EST.
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In about 15 months -- provided that the ugly set of allegations currently being leveled against him are false -- NFL scouts will look back at Jameis Winston's performance in the first half against Syracuse on Saturday as just another affirmation.
It's been a season of them for the redshirt freshman quarterback.
There was the debut against Pittsburgh in which Winston set the bar exceedingly high for himself by going 25/27 for 356 yards and four touchdowns on a primetime stage. How does he handle blind hype -- the same sort he would have to play with as a number one draft pick? He crushed it.
There was the night at Clemson when he was caught by TV cameras giving a pregame speech, telling his teammates to smile, that they were going to do it big. Then he proceeded to throw for 444 yards while accouning for four touchdowns at a hostile environment in primetime. FSU smoked then-third ranked Clemson 51-14. How does he handle games on the biggest stages? He crushed it.
There was the game against rival Miami, then no. 7, in which he threw two first half picks and then made a halftime promise to teammates that there would be no more turnovers. He went 12 for 14 for 164 yards and the Seminoles ran away with the game in the second half. How does he handle adversity in a game and bounce back from his own mistakes? He crushed it.
Yesterday -- provided Winston is innocent as he and his attorney have asserted -- was yet another example of how Winston rises to the moment. How does he handle adversity in his personal life? He crushed it.
If you hadn't followed the media circus that ensued mid-week after TMZ published a largely speculative report linking Winston to a nearly year-old sexual assault investigation, you'd have never known that his entire personal life was in a state of upheaval.
FSU practically sprinted down the field on their first drive Satruday, going 77 yards on six plays while Winston went five-for-five for 74 yards on the series. It took a hair over two and a half minutes.
On the very next drive, Winston sprinted nearly 45 yards down the field and laid out to deliver one final block to help Kermit Whitfield score on a 74-yard run.
He was 10-for-10 in the first quarter for 170 yards and a touchdown while FSU built a 28-0 lead. He completed his first 11 consecutive passes. He finished 19/21 for 277 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He didn't have to play a snap in the second half because him and the offense had been so efficient -- so lethal -- in the first.
It seems you just cannot get to Jameis Winston. And even if you do it's nearly impossible to bring him down. Syracuse's defenders found that out yesterday as he continued buck them off while they attempted to wrap him up on sacks.
And the country saw that yesterday as he seemed oblivious to a week's worth of distractions while carving up the Orange secondary. It was just Jameis Winston out there being Jameis Winston. It was just like any other Saturday.
This was the weekend Jameis Winston proved once and for all that he truly is unflappable.
With two more touchdown passes yesterday Winston is now third all-time at Florida State for touchdown passes in a season. Danny Kanell tossed 32, Chris Weinke tossed 33, Winston has 28. Last night, with Charlie Ward standing on the sideline, Winston passed him for third. The 6'4 225 QB's first quarter touchdown pass to Rashad Greene tied him with Ward at 27. The pass he threw to Kelvin Benjamin in the second quarter gave him sole possession of third.
Kanell and Weinke played in fewer games, there was no ACC championship game back then, teams didn't always play 12 games a year and bowl statistics didn't count toward season statistics until 2002. But Winston has less experience, Both Kanell and Weinke were seniors, Weinke was 27 and balding. You expected big years out of them. Nobody -- except maybe Jameis, himself -- expected this from him as a redshirt freshman.
Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer couldn't have been more complimentary of Florida State after his team got walloped by them.
“Hats off to Jimbo Fisher and Florida State. That’s one of the best football teams I’ve seen in my 23 years coaching. They are big, they are fast, they are talented and they know what they’re doing. Great tackling bunch," said Shafer after the game. "The most positive thing I get out of this is now we know where the bar is set and what we need to try and do in the next few years to try to compete against a team of this caliber. Now that we won’t be going head-to-head with them for the for the rest of the year in any sort of a conference race or anything, I’d like to see them go out there and represent the ACC and win the whole damn thing because they are a damn good football team and Jimbo does a great job with them. Hats off to them -- they earned everything they got."
Later when asked if FSU was better than they look on film, he added:
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and they are just – doggonit – I thought the quarterback was a defensive end until he turned his shoulders and I saw his jersey number. Jameis [Winston] – he’s a big kid. Their quarterbacks look like our D-ends. Nothing against our kids, I love them, like I said that’s the bar and that’s what we are going to have to strive for. I love my kids, I love our players, but [FSU] are a good looking bunch. They are as good as they are supposed to look and better. They look like an NFL team out there, personnel wise. They have guys who don’t touch the field that are giants. That’s the sign of a good program and one helluva job by Jimbo Fisher and this staff.”
FSU's first team defense continues to prove that it's an elite unit -- this time against a power run game that many believed could test it the same way as Boston College did back in September.
"We've come far, every week is a learning experience and this is right where we wanted to be," said LB Telvin Smith. "We learned from that Boston College game we've got to come out and start ready and come out and dominate from the first snap and I feel like [ever since] we've done just that."
Last night was another example of just how far they've come as a defense since BC. The Orange entered the game averaging over 200 yards per contest on the ground. Against FSU's first team defense they managed just five first half rushing yards. Their luck wasn't much better against the second team, Syracuse finished with a 2.9 yard average.
More than that though, FSU's defense just overwhelmed Syracuse. They caused three sacks, forced two turnovers, scored again and prevented the Orange from ever truly climbing into this game. FSU now has 18 turnovers through their past five games.
Offense Starting Fast
The offense has been starting fast since Boston College too. It's funny that earlier this season one of the narratives was that the Seminoles were slow out the gates. They got that fixed in a hurry. FSU has now out-scored opponents 138-35 in the first quarter this season.
"I'd probably blame that on Boston College," said WR Kenny Shaw. "We started out slow and that's not a good feeling playing from behind, so now we try to pride ourselves in starting off fast."
Added TE Nick O'Leary: “Jameis came out ready to go. When he’s completing balls we’re all ready to go. Devonta and James are doing a great job running. When we’re rolling, nobody can stop us.”
Were it another week -- one without the aforementioned allegations looming overheard -- Jameis Winston's first quarter block for Kermit Whitfield would probably have become a huge part of his Heisman narrative. It may still be. Winston sprinted downfield and laid out to make sure his teammate was sprung for the touchdown. It was the kind of selfless play that builds team chemistry and after Winston's teammates rallied around him this week it was probably good for them to see that.
"Kermit’s going to outrun everyone in the world, you don’t have to block, just be careful," joked Fisher after the fact. "But no, it was amazing just to get down there and block. It shows how team oriented he is.”
Added Winston: "Anything for our team to have success, I’m down for it. Obviously I have some competition because Jake [Coker] had a block for Kermit so I had to go and get me one.”
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