As Jameis Winston walked into the post game press conference after the number one ranked Florida State Seminole’s (1-0, 0-0 ACC) 37-31 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys (0-1, 0-0 Big 12) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. He still did not look as chipper as his usual self. Winston was notably frustrated with the play of his offense all night, and even more specifically with himself. And then finally the question was asked, someone finally asked the question about what Winston thought about his team’s performance tonight. His answer? “We got to get better. We got to get better man.”
And that is the statement that will define a season.
Yes the heavily favored ‘Noles did not have the dominant performance many experts and analysts predicted, and while many teams would be happy with a gutty win over a well coached and talented yet young OSU squad, many teams (127 in the FBS to be exact) are not the odds on favorite to win the national championship in January.
FSU got out to a hot start scoring 17 unanswered points to start the game by way of a Roberto Aguayo field goal, a nine yard interception return for a touchdown by Nate Andrews, and an 11 yard run from Mario Pender who scored on his first ever touch as a Seminole.
Then the mistakes started, as the defense gave up a long touchdown drive. Later Winston and the offense would completely botch a two minute drill that would end with the quarterback throwing an interception to Oklahoma State’s Ashton Lampkin. This would result in a Ben Grogan field goal that would cut the ‘Noles’ lead to seven before half.
FSU would settle for three again to start the second half, and after that is when it began to get interesting. Pokes QB J.W. Walsh would find a wide open man in David Glidden on a blown coverage, which would cut FSU’s lead to three. After that FSU went three and out on offense, but would be bailed out by a Walsh fumble on the Cowpokes ensuing drive. Winston would make the Cowboys pay for the turnover with an almost superhuman 28 yard touchdown run which saw him hurdle over his own blockers, and juke an OSU defender.
Oklahoma State however still would not go away as Walsh answered with a long TD scramble of his own to cut the lead to three again. The ‘Noles ensuing drive would stall, but they would once again be bailed out by the defense as Mario Edwards Jr. would come up with a 14 yard sack as Walsh was called for intentional grounding. FSU would tack on another field goal before the Seminole’s defense would force another turnover by way of a Walsh fumble. This would set up a 50 yard bomb from Winston to Rashad Greene that would prove to be the dagger. OSU would score with 1:55 remaining, but it proved to be too little too late as FSU would run out the clock to preserve the win.
The big takeaways of the night were mostly on the offensive side of the ball. Defending Heisman Trophy winner Winston looked to force too many throws that were not there which led to two avoidable interceptions from the redshirt sophomore. In addition, as we discussed on Monday it is abundantly clear Winston and his stable of new wide receivers have not built a great chemistry yet. This was most obvious by comparing standout returning veteran Greene’s 11 receptions and 203 yards compared to the 11 receptions and 94 yards the other members of the offense who caught passes (Karlos Williams, Kermit Whitfield, and Nick O’Leary respectively) racked up combined.
Karlos Williams debut as the feature back also raised some eyebrows with the RB netting 66 yards on 23 carries for only 2.9 yards per carry. It was revealed towards the end of the game that Williams had received word of a death in the family today, and obviously that emotional weight would carry just about anyone down, but from a football standpoint the ‘Noles’ run game could be in big trouble if this becomes a trend and not a blip on the radar.
Overall the FSU defense played an ok game, but certainly not one of the caliber of the previous year’s model. They came up big when they were needed, but still were not what people have come to expect of the unit. The Cowboys would have 364 yards of total offense off of 70 plays (that’s 5.2 yards per play for those of you keeping score at home) and a good portion of those seemed to come from yards after carry. Florida State had stretches of the game where it seemed as though the first man just could not make the tackle, with the defensive tackles and the linebackers being the main units to shoulder the blame. Yet another tidbit from tonight’s game that the garnet and gold faithful hope do not turn into a trend.
So where do the garnet and gold go from here? Well the first place they would probably want to be after a frustrating game like that… home. FSU will host The Citadel next Saturday night (7:30 PM ET, RSN) in their first game of the year at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, and the game could not have come at a better time. The Seminoles will be able to finally celebrate last year’s accomplishments in front of their hometown fans, while trying to find their way back to that form through this year’s flaws.
So as the lights go out in Dallas a few things are for certain. Florida State is 1-0, Florida State will more than likely still be number one when the new polls come out, and Florida State is still loaded with talent. That being said the Seminoles need to do exactly what their star quarterback Winston said they need to do… they need to get better.