What will Winston, No. 10 FSU do for encore?
Jameis Winston had so many calls and text messages rolling in after Florida State’s season opener that his cellphone just stopped responding.
“Froze up,” he said.
Fortunately for the 10th-ranked Seminoles (1-0), their redshirt freshman quarterback performed much better under pressure.
Winston’s debut couldn’t have gone much better. He completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-13 victory at Pitt on Sept. 2. He also ran for 25 yards and a score, the kind of first impression that leaves everyone wondering what he’ll do for an encore.
Well, Winston gets a chance to prove the opener was no fluke when Florida State hosts Nevada (1-1) on Saturday.
“You think people are going to stumble, but maybe not,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Maybe they play well all the time, keep things in perspective, remember why they’re doing things and stay true to the process.”
Winston sure doesn’t seem like he’s going to get rattled.
He’s shown as much poise handling all the hype and praise as he did while leading the Seminoles on seven consecutive scoring drives against the Panthers.
“I’m just being myself,” said Winston, who was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s rookie of the week, the Davey O’Brien quarterback of the week and the Manning Award star of the week. “I’m going to be myself no matter what, even if I’m on the headlines of ESPN or if I’m on the front page of World Star Hip Hop.
“I’m going to prepare because my team is depending on me. I’ve got to do what’s right for them. I can’t have no big head. I’ve got to stay grounded and stay focused.”
First-year Nevada coach Brian Polian tried to get Winston to play for Stanford two years ago, so he knows all about the 6-foot-4 signal caller from Hueytown, Ala.
“He’s an incredibly accurate thrower, but beyond his physical tools, he’s an incredibly mature, smart, just well-rounded young man,” Polian said. “He does not act like a redshirt freshman. ... I think he’s a pretty special guy.”
Here are five things to watch when Nevada takes on No. 10 Florida State Saturday:
POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Between the Pistol formation and the no-huddle offense, the Wolf Pack’s style can be problematic — especially for nonconference teams unaccustomed to seeing it. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo isn’t as polished as his predecessor, Colin Kaepernick, but he’s far from easy to defend. He threw for 164 yards and ran for 106 more and two touchdowns in the opener at UCLA.
NEW STARTER: Florida State guard Tre’ Jackson, a preseason All-ACC selection, is doubtful to play against Nevada because of an ankle injury. Sophomore Ruben Carter, who saw action in the opener, is expected to make his first career start. “There’s nothing like being able to do it in real life,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It’s very rewarding to see a lot of your work pay off.” The Seminoles also will keep an eye on left tackle Cameron Erving, who spent time in the hospital Wednesday after getting hit in the back. Tests showed no damage, and he returned to practice Thursday.
MEASURING STICK: Coach Brian Polian prefers to look at the positive side of Nevada’s first game against a team from a power conference. Sure, the Wolf Pack gave up 647 yards and 58 points against the Bruins, but they were only down 17-13 at halftime. The Seminoles could be an even tougher test. “This is going to be the measuring stick,” Polian said. “If you envision yourself as an NFL football player someday, then this is the type of game that you need to go compete in. ... The guys who are really competitive will go in and relish that, and the ones that aren’t quite ready might be a little afraid. Our job is to figure out who’s who and get the right ones out there.”
O’LEARY WATCH: Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary is getting lots of attention these days — and not just because he’s the grandson of legendary golfer legend Jack Nicklaus. O’Leary caught four passes for 47 yards and three touchdowns against Pitt, matching his TD total from last season. He became the first FSU player to catch three TD passes in the same game since Greg Carr in 2006.
HOME CONFIDENCE: The Seminoles are 17-4 at home under Fisher, including 7-2 against non-conference opponents. FSU might have an extra advantage in this one, with temperatures expected to be close to 90 degrees at kickoff. “Although it’s been warm around here, it’s going to feel different in Tallahassee,” Polian said.