Jameis Winston didn’t quite look like the reigning Heisman-trophy winner. The Seminoles didn’t exactly resemble the defending National Champions they are.
Nothing came easy on Saturday night against a spirited Oklahoma State team looking to shock the sports world by taking down college football’s heavily favored no. 1 ranked team. At no point did FSU appear to be in total control of the game, something its fans have grown accustomed to over the past season.
After racing out to a 17-0 lead, it looked like the Seminoles were on their way to another easy season opener, matching their performance against Pittsburgh a year ago. In reality, a spectacular interception from Nate Andrews, which he returned for a touchdown, masked a rather unimpressive early performance from FSU’s offense.
Coming off a year in which it produced an average of 203 yards rushing a game, FSU put up half that, with a mere 106 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, the veteran offensive line, comprised of all seniors, was largely responsible for that stat.
Winston hardly looked himself, tossing two interceptions and no touchdowns in the first half, and didn’t seem to ever settle into the flow of the game.
But it wasn’t just the offense that struggled. Florida State’s renowned defense looked like anything but good, giving up multiple big plays at crucial times. Early in the second half, they were caught out of position for an easy 55-yard touchdown pass to bring OKST within 3 points. Then, in the fourth quarter after it looked like FSU had finally taken control of the game, Cowboys’ quarterback J.W. Walsh picked apart the ‘Noles defense with his feet, scoring from 24 yards out.
Fans were left wondering for far too long whether or not this team was going to be the first defending national champion to lose its season opener since Michigan did so in 1998.
The only consistently reliable part of the game for FSU was Roberto Aguayo’s kicking, going 3 for 3 on the night, which is still something to take comfort in. And really there were good parts to the game, too, if you got over the anxiety of a much-too-close score.
Rashad Greene proved himself as a veteran leader in an FSU offense full of new faces in the starting rotation. The wide receiver hauled in 11 receptions for 203 yards and the game winning touchdown.
Karlos Williams and Mario Pender delivered a fairly strong performance when they were given room to run. Expect those two bruisers to be a very dangerous combination this season.
Jameis Winston, too, looked good in flashes, finding his receivers in tight spaces for big gains. And no one will soon forget his rumbling 28 yard run into the endzone to get the ‘Noles back on track when it looked like they might be slipping up.
The defense had its moments, as well, starting with Andrews’ interception early on in the game. Cornerback PJ Williams delivered a hit on OKST’s Walsh which sent him cartwheeling and the ball to the ground for a critical turnover to give FSU more of a cushion late in the game.
Except for the blown coverage that led to the third quarter touchdown, FSU’s secondary looked solid throughout the game. Williams, fellow cornerback Ronald Darby, and safeties Nate Andrews and Tyler Hunter limited the Cowboys’ passing offense to only 203 yards, and probably should have come up with two more interceptions.
All in all: a win is a win is a win. FSU went into an unfriendly environment and proved it could handle adversity early in the season. They survived and will move forward knowing it can only get better from here.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher said after the game, “We’re still a work in progress. We know that. It’s not about being great; it’s about playing great.”
The Seminoles know they did not play great. They know there is a long way to go if they want to end their season in Dallas. Hopefully, the players worked all the first game jitters out of their systems and can put a shaky start behind them.
They’ll have to do so by week three, when a Clemson team seeking revenge comes to town.
by MATT SIMONS / sports editor