Florida State Football: Fisher and Winston Need Fast Starts

Austyn HumphreyCorrespondent IIISeptember 15, 2013

FSU QB Jameis Winston has more touchdowns than incompletions, but his first-quarter play on Saturday should raise concerns.
FSU QB Jameis Winston has more touchdowns than incompletions, but his first-quarter play on Saturday should raise concerns.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Going on my third year covering the Seminoles for Bleacher Report, there are some things I (and Seminoles fans who have watched games over the past two years) have realized:

  1. FSU is back to posting double-digit win seasons.
  2. FSU has continued to lose games in ACC play, with Clemson usually putting up the toughest fight.
  3. FSU's offensive line has steadily improved since 2011's 9-4 letdown.

One thing on this list doesn't apply anymore. Guess which one?

The Seminoles offensive line has been mostly terrific in the first two games. It's been the strength of a team who is maturing with its young, hot-rod quarterback “Famous” Jameis Winston. Given the overall dazzling performance at Doak Campbell Stadium against Nevada on Saturday, FSU looks like a lock to have at least 10 wins for the third year in head coach Jimbo Fisher’s fourth year.

The fans should be concerned, though, about how the Seminoles have been in the first quarter this season. Having a slow start at Pitt wasn't exactly a surprise. The Seminoles were playing on a Monday night, and for the first time many FSU veteran players didn't open a game on their home turf.

But yesterday, the Seminoles gave fans 20 minutes of awful mixed with 40 of ecstasy. Nevada held a 7-3 lead into the second quarter as the Seminoles played sloppy. The team had a false start in the end zone, and Winston’s passes were off. For example, what appeared to be a clutch catch by wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone was dropped. Another Winston pass flew over any possible receiver, and the quarterback had his first interception of the year.

This wasn't a vintage Nevada team. Long time Wolf Pack head coach Chris Ault had retired last season, and Colin Kaepernick now quarterbacks the San Francisco 49ers. Some might say the Seminoles had a difficult time adjusting to Nevada’s tricky pistol offense, and that the team is still forging its identity coming off a bye week.

Florida State shouldn't be rusty in the first quarter. The first quarter sets the tone for the game and can give an underdog hope. Now if the Seminoles were stalling in the second half, when most teams would have more than a 17-7 lead, that would be more understandable. Backups might struggle slightly against a less talented teams’ front seven, and that is to be expected. And the team did show off its skills by scoring 45 in the second half, 31 alone in the third quarter. Winston again looked like the player who thrashed Pitt, and he still left time for backup QBs Jacob Coker and Sean Maguire to rip apart the Wolf Pack defense.

That’s all well and good, but the Seminoles cannot afford to give away scoring opportunities against Clemson early in Death Valley. The same goes for Miami too. I’m more impressed than anybody with Jameis Winston and the crew, but since Winston has a strong enough offensive line he should be able to hesitate less on his throws.

The Seminoles should be a well-oiled machine by the time the team visits Clemson. If they want to win, they need to be.