It wasn't pretty but it still resulted in a familiar outcome for No. 1 Florida State; the Seminoles were once again victorious Saturday night, knocking off Oklahoma State, 37-31.
The triumph extended the Seminoles winning streak to 17 games. FSU was tested in just two games a season ago (at Boston College and in the national championship game against Auburn), but in the 2014 opener, the Cowboys and adversity proved to be worthy foes, as the defending national champs had to sweat one out at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
How FSU responds moving forward will be critical. The 'Noles could not establish a running game against the Cowboys, and that vaunted all-senior offensive line struggled mightily. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston had a couple brilliant moments, but Rashad Greene, who had 11 catches for 203 yards and touchdown, was the only receiver he appeared confident in targeting.
The Seminoles have to improve across the board if they want to go wire to wire as No. 1 and finish the season on the same field they started it on Saturday night.
|Florida State Seminoles Game Grades|
|Position Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
|Aug. 30 vs. Oklahoma State|
Florida State Seminoles Game Analysis
Winston forced some throws for sure (he had two interceptions on ill-advised passes), but the Seminoles signal-caller still made plays through the air when he had to.
After losing Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw in the off-season, it's understandable Winston's timing and confidence is still a work in progress with every receiver not named Greene, who accounted for 203 of Winston's 370 passing yards and key fourth-quarter score.
Christian Green showed some flashes early in the game but his 73 yards on two grabs all occurred in the opening half, and he was a non-factor in the final two quarters. Can Kermit Whitfield build off his three catches for 30 yards moving forward?
The Seminoles were supposed to dominate teams on the ground in 2014 behind an all-senior offensive line and a home-run hitting tailback depth chart. But Saturday night Oklahoma State ate up that offensive line and bottled up running back Karlos Williams, who was held to just 2.9 yards per carry.
Outside of Mario Pender's 11-yard dash to the end zone and Winston's career-long 28-yard highlight-reel run to pay dirt, FSU's running game was a disappointment.
FSU led the nation in interceptions a season ago and nabbed one Saturday night when Nate Andrews took pick back for an early score. FSU held Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh to 15-of-27 passing for 203 yards and one long score on a busted coverage. Cornerback P.J. Williams made the play of the game when he forced Walsh into a fumble late in the fourth quarter that helped seal the victory.
The Seminoles are clearly still looking for a quality replacement in the heart of the defensive line for Timmy Jernigan, who moved on to the NFL. The absence of the All-American tackle was evident at times against the Cowboys, who had some success running up the middle. Walsh reeled off 51 yards rushing with two scores, though Oklahoma State did manage just 3.8 yards per carry. However, the fourth quarter saw the Cowboys average 5.87 yards per carry on 14 rushes -- that could be a point of emphasis this week at practice.
FSU got some great play from linebackers Terrance Smith, E.J. Levenberry and Reggie Northrup, its secondary and ends Mario Edwards Jr. and DeMarcus Walker but needs its defensive tackles to step up and replace Jernigan.
Roberto Aguayo didn't miss a beat after winning last year's Lou Groza Award. The redshirt sophomore hit two field goals in the ballgame that FSU certainly needed. Punter Cason Beatty continues to be unimpressive in his third year, averaging just 35.8 yards-per-punt on five attempts.
Tyreek Hill had one blunder in the return game but he did have a few nice kick returns on FSU's coverage, including a 44-yarder.
Jimbo Fisher did earn his 17th win in a row but admitted after the game he needed to do a better job with a few aspects of the team's preparations. FSU was one of the better teams in the nation a season ago on third-down conversion attempts but Saturday night Fisher seemed a bit too conservative on longer third-down tries, opting to utilize draw plays rather then let Winston sling it down the field like he did so often last year in those same situations.
Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. Statistics courtesy of NCAA.com.
Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.