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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