Sunday, January 21, 2018
Colleges

Florida State routs Syracuse

TALLAHASSEE — If Jameis Winston and his second-ranked Seminoles were distracted by the off-the-field issues that surfaced last week or the hunt for a national title, it didn't show Saturday.

The redshirt freshman quarterback completed his first 11 passes and even threw a key block as Florida State overwhelmed Syracuse in a 59-3 homecoming win at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"It's the same Jameis," receiver Kenny Shaw said. "Same Jameis. No difference."

Very little seemed different Saturday, despite the open investigation by the State Attorney's Office into Winston's possible involvement in sexual assault allegations first reported to police in December. Winston's attorney has denied any wrongdoing by his client, and Winston has not been arrested or charged with a crime.

As usual, Winston drew the loudest ovation during player introductions from the announced crowd of 74,491. His numbers were typically stellar: 19-of-21 passing for 277 yards and two touchdowns in only two quarters of action.

And his 'Noles (10-0, 8-0) rolled from the beginning to secure their eighth undefeated ACC season in program history and FSU's first 10-0 start since its run to the 1999 national championship.

Winston started the game by leading FSU on a six-play, 77-yard drive capped off by the first of Plant High alumnus James Wilder Jr.'s two rushing scores. That was the first touchdown Syracuse (5-5, 3-3) had allowed in its last 132 minutes.

It wouldn't be the last.

Winston led FSU to touchdowns on its first five drives, needing only 24 plays and less than nine minutes on offense to rack up 348 yards. The Heisman Trophy candidate tossed a pair of 6-yard scoring passes, one to Rashad Greene and one on a fade to a leaping Kelvin Benjamin.

He even threw his 6-foot-4, 228-pound frame at a Syracuse defender to help spring Kermit Whitfield's 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

"Anything for our team to have success, I'm down for," Winston said.

While FSU's offense exploded for the game's first 59 points — the school-record sixth time it has scored at least 50 this season — its defense was equally dominant.

Syracuse's only points came on a 32-yard field goal against FSU's backups with 10 minutes left in the game, at the end of a 20-play drive.

"That's one of the best football teams I've seen in my 23 years coaching," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. "They look like an NFL team out there, personnel wise."

The Orange averaged only 2.3 yards per play in the first half when the outcome was still uncertain. Syracuse advanced into FSU territory only once in the first three quarters, and the 'Noles added a defensive score when Chris Casher returned a fumble 31 yards for a touchdown.

"They're playing very disciplined," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of his defense, "flying to the ball, creating turnovers."

Fisher talks regularly about the need for his team to eliminate clutter — good or bad — and focus on the next game.

As the final seconds ticked away, the only clutter at the stadium was a soft chant rising from FSU's student section about a potential matchup seven weeks away.

"We want 'Bama."

Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

     
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