Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston took home the Heisman Trophy and joined fellow Seminole signal-callers Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke as winners of college football's most coveted honor.
FSU is now the 10th school to boast at least a trio of Heisman awards, joining Army, Auburn, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC. Winston became the second freshman—second in a row, as a matter of fact—to earn the bronze after Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, who broke through in 2012 but could do no better than a fifth-place finish in 2013.
Winston's statistics are nothing short of sensational, as he led the nation in passer efficiency rating (190.1) and set FBS freshman records with 3,820 yards passing and 38 touchdown passes, not to mention he has guided the 'Noles to a 13-0 mark and a spot Jan. 6 in the BCS National Championship.
Nevertheless, to call the 6'4", 228-pounder's campaign under center the greatest in school annals may be a bit premature, as Ward's 27-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio was more impressive than Winston's 38-to-10, and Weinke only needed 12 games to throw for a program-best 4,167 yards. Perhaps most importantly, both Ward and Weinke currently possess what Winston desires most (a national title), although he'll get his chance in Pasadena against Auburn.
Let's take a closer look at Ward's 1993, Weinke's 2000 and Winston's 2013 to try and determine if one of them simply stood out from the other two.
By the numbers: Ward completed 264 of 380 passes (69.5 percent) for 3,032 yards with 27 touchdowns and four interceptions in 1993, plus he added 65 carries for 339 yards and four more TDs on the ground. While his efficiency rating of 157.8 would only rank 15th in the nation by 2013's standards, it wasn't as easy to throw the ball then and FSU's "Fast Break" offense—the name came from him also being the point guard on the basketball team—was considered revolutionary at the time.
Ward's 8.0 yards per attempt and 11.5 yards per completion were both quite lower than Weinke's (9.7, 15.7) and Winston's (10.9, 16.1), but his microscopic interception percentage of 1.1 proves that he took better care of the football in flight than Weinke (2.9) or Winston (2.6).
Signature game: With a spot in the Orange Bowl and a chance at the national title on the line, Ward shook off a couple of INTs to throw for 446 yards and four TDs in the regular-season finale at rival Florida. He sealed the 33-21 win with a scrambling, 79-yard scoring strike to freshman tailback Warrick Dunn that silenced a deafening Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, one of the most memorable plays in Florida State lore.
It was Ward's fourth game with four touchdown tosses, plus his 38 completions and 53 attempts were both career highs.
Ultimate prize: It definitely wasn't vintage Ward in the Orange Bowl vs. Nebraska, as he hit on 24 of 43 passes for 286 yards without a touchdown or an interception. However, he did lead the Seminoles down the field in the waning moments to set up Scott Bentley's 22-yard field goal with 21 seconds left on the clock.
The 18-16 triumph over the Cornhuskers finally delivered a long-awaited national championship for legendary coach Bobby Bowden.
By the numbers: Weinke completed 266 of 431 passes (61.7 percent) for 4,167 yards with 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2000, although he didn't offer anything extra as a runner: 30 carries for minus-97 yards and one TD. With the Seminoles embracing the no-huddle passing game as much as ever, his average of 347.3 yards per game through the air dwarfed Ward (275.6) and Winston (293.8), who both orchestrated more balanced attacks.
FSU was a high-volume passing offense and everybody knew it, as Weinke's averages of 22.2 completions and 35.9 attempts per game topped both Ward (22.0, 31.7) and Winston (18.2, 26.8)—little ability to tuck it and run made his aerial accolades all the more impressive, too.
Signature game: Take these stats with a grain of salt, as they were achieved during the highs of the Florida State dynasty and the lows of Duke's ineptitude, but Weinke connected on 37 of 47 passes for an FSU-record 536 yards and five touchdowns—the Blue Devils did pick him off once, to be fair. The former minor league baseball player crossed the 500-yard plateau again just three weeks later against much stiffer competition from Clemson, hitting on 27 of 43 throws for 521 yards with two TDs and no INTs.
Arguably Weinke's most famous play in garnet and gold came in that 54-7 taming of the Tigers, as he ran a fearless play-action fake from his own end zone and then turned it into a 98-yard Marvin "Snoop" Minnis catch-and-run for six.
Ultimate prize: Even though Weinke does have a ring on his finger, he actually earned it the season prior (1999) to his coronation as the game's best player at the now-gone Downtown Athletic Club. In one of the most frustrating games to watch from an FSU perspective, Weinke and Co. failed to put a single offensive point on the board in a humbling 13-2 defeat to Oklahoma in the BCS title game.
Many fans pinned the loss on then-offensive coordinator Mark Richt, who took the head-coaching job at Georgia between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, but it didn't help that Weinke completed less than 50 percent of his attempts (25 of 51) and was also picked off twice.
By the numbers: Winston completed 237 of 349 passes (67.9 percent) for 3,820 yards with 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2013, and as a ball-carrier he contributed 77 carries for 193 yards and four additional TDs. Not only was he extra deadly in the face of the blitz and seemingly unfazed by long-yardage situations, the two-sport star saw an astonishing 10.1 percent of his passes result in six points on the scoreboard—Ward and Weinke did no better than 7.1 and 7.7, respectively.
Only once have the Seminoles had two 1,000-yard receivers, when Andre Cooper (1,002) and E.G. Green (1,007) did it in 1995, but Winston has spread the pigskin around so well that Rashad Greene (981), Kelvin Benjamin (957) and Kenny Shaw (929) could all crack quadruple digits during the bowl game.
Signature game: The product of Hueytown (Ala.) High School introduced himself to the rest of the country in a jaw-dropping 51-14 blowout of then-No. 3 Clemson on the road in prime time, reaching his target on 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards with three touchdowns and one interception—plus he scored another TD on a scramble. It was the beginning of Winston's march toward the Heisman and the stake in the heart for early contender Tajh Boyd.
Most assumed he would crumble before Memorial Stadium's jet engine-like crowd, but a camera crew filmed Winston and his cool-as-a-cucumber pregame speech that seems prophetic with the benefit of hindsight.
Ultimate prize: It remains to be seen if he can bring the crystal football back to Tallahassee, as we're still a few precious weeks from 'Noles-Tigers at the Rose Bowl. Nevertheless, Winston has an opportunity to do something neither Ward nor Weinke ever could: capture the Heisman Trophy and a national championship in the same year while going undefeated in the process.
And should Winston indeed accomplish that rare trifecta, a convincing case can be made that it would be the greatest season ever for Florida State at the game's most important position.
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