Following an eventful offseason, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was looking to start his sophomore season with the same poise and execution that led to him winning the 2013 Heisman Trophy. Unfortunately, he had a much different start to his second campaign.
Winston finished the night going 25-of-40 for 370 passing yards, two total touchdowns and a career-high two interceptions in a hard fought 37-31 win against Oklahoma State. That was a stark difference from his first game as a freshman, throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions against Pittsburgh.
Top-ranked FSU defeats Oklahoma State 37-31! Jameis Winston with 370 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 rushing TD pic.twitter.com/q9zGDIZpqh— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 31, 2014
While Winston accomplished nearly everything possible in 2013, he comes into this season with even higher expectations. The sophomore spoke about his improvement this offseason, per College GameDay:
"I'm better than I was last year." - Jameis Winston— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) August 30, 2014
Much has been made this offseason about Winston off the field, and not much of it has been favorable. The FSU signal-caller was caught stealing crab legs along with other issues, but still remained positive throughout the experience.
Rather than living up to that hype created early on, Winston scuffled on the field throughout the first half. The pressure appeared to take its toll on Winston as he failed to find open receivers and threw two interceptions before heading to the locker room.
Mark Cooper of the Tulsa World notes just how well the Oklahoma State defense played Winston:
That was the first time in Jameis Winston's career he was intercepted twice in one quarter. Threw 2 in one game just twice in 2013. #OKState— Mark Cooper (@mark_cooperjr) August 31, 2014
College GameDay also points out the difference between Winston's start of his freshman year:
Jameis Winston threw his 2nd INT last season on his 91st pass attempt; his 2nd pick tonight came on his 22nd pass attempt. #FSUvsOKST— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) August 31, 2014
The precision Winston showed as a freshman was not evident in the first half, and neither was the decision making. After losing Kelvin Benjamin to the NFL, Winston didn't appear to have the same rapport with his receivers down the field.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report points out the underwhelming start for Winston:
Weird night for Jameis Winston. Forcing throws and the gambles aren't paying off.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 31, 2014
The second half had a similar start for the signal-caller, but he showed flashes of his dual-threat ability in the third quarter.
Oklahoma State had FSU's receivers covered like a glove, but Winston would find an opening and make a difference with his legs. Winston carved his way through the Cowboys defense for career-long 28-yard touchdown.
That huge run would not prove to be the turning point for Winston, however, as he was stymied on the following drives and left the door open for the Cowboys. But with the game on the line late, Winston pulled through with his best pass of the night.
Up by only six points with 4:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, Winston found Rashad Greene across the middle for a 50-yard touchdown. Despite throwing into a tight window, Greene hauled in the pass and raced away from defenders.
ESPN College Football provides video of the play:
Eye on College Football gives a look at the star receiver's night:
FSU turns the Oklahoma State fumble into fast points. Rashad Greene over 200 yards and the Noles are up 37-24— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) August 31, 2014
The gutsy pass also got rave reviews from Pat Forde of Yahoo:
Can't believe Winston jammed that pass in there. But it just decided the game. Lot of confidence to throw that one.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) August 31, 2014
Though it was far from a Heisman performance by Winston, it was good enough to keep the Seminoles undefeated. With other players like Kenny Hill of Texas A&M and Todd Gurley of Georgia exploding in Week 1, Winston will need to improve to retain the Heisman.
Can Winston repeat as the Heisman winner?
As all eyes remain on Winston and FSU as a whole, the mounting pressure will only grow as the season goes on. Luckily, Winston has an easy test ahead of him in Citadel at home before hosting Clemson.
Thanks to a fairly easy schedule ahead of the Seminoles, Oklahoma State might have been one of the stiffest test of the season. After a difficult night under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium, getting back to Tallahassee should be a welcomed environment for the quarterback.
It's a different year and a new opportunity for the Seminoles and Winston. Despite a rough first game against Oklahoma State, expect Famous Jameis to return to form before a huge showdown with the Tigers.
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