Jameis Winston kept himself squarely in the middle of the Heisman race with Florida State's 59-3 romp over the Syracuse Orange at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Taking on a Syracuse team that was just 5-4 on the season, Winston had the benefit of playing out of the spotlight but with the pressure of needing a nearly flawless performance against a mediocre Orange secondary to continue wowing voters.
Fortunately for Florida State, Winston continued to show that he's either too young or too good to know what pressure means. His day was the epitome of efficiency, as he finished an abbreviated performance with a stat line of 19-of-21 for 277 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Coming into the game with a giant target on his back, Winston made sure that the 'Noles would continue their undefeated campaign by taking the Syracuse out of the game right away. He completed all 10 of his passes in the first frame, as the Orange had no answer for the star freshman:
Just another day for Jameis Winston, 10-10, 170 yards, TD. Noles lead 28-0 after 1st. #CUSEvsFSU— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) November 16, 2013
The Seminoles looked to prove that they are a more balanced team than meets the eye early in the contest. Three different Seminole backs scored the team's first three touchdowns, but it was Winston who would get to add touchdowns four and five to the board.
The first was a six-yard dart to Rashad Greene off of a play-action fake that Winston put just out of reach of two defenders. The second was a perfectly thrown back shoulder fade to Kelvin Benjamin from six yards out once again.
Most importantly, the two touchdown tosses put Winston in rarefied air for a Seminoles' quarterback:
Winston has passed Charlie Ward (who's here today) for 3rd on #FSU's single-season TD pass list. He's at 28 now. Chasing D Kannel (32) next.— Warchant.com (@Warchant) November 16, 2013
Winston's record-setting performance is a good omen for his Heisman chances. Charlie Ward won the award the season in which he threw 27 touchdown passes, and the Seminoles went on to win the National Championship.
With struggling teams in Idaho and Florida next up on the docket, Winston will have to continue to put up eye-popping numbers to remain in the race before a trip to the ACC Championship Game offers him one last chance to impress voters in the spotlight.
The competition isn't getting any easier for Winston, though. Fellow Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota threw for 288 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Utah on the other side of the country, and Johnny Manziel continues to be a threat, as he is the 2012 winner of the award.
Winston will have to continue his near flawless play to become just the second freshman to win college football's most prestigious award.