Maryland vs. Florida State: 10 Things We Learned in Seminoles Win
No. 8 Florida State entered this week as a team on upset alert against an upstart Maryland club.
Instead, the nation was treated to the latest—and perhaps, most exhilarating—chapter of the Jameis Winston experience.
Winston torched the Terrapins to the tune of 393 yards passing and five touchdowns, and Jeremy Pruitt’s defense turned in its strongest showing of the year by blanking the Terps.
Meanwhile, Randy Edsall's club has to go back to the drawing board after getting humiliated in its conference opener.
What are the main takeaways from FSU's dominating victory over Maryland?
10. Terps Program Still Rebuilding
Maryland entered the FSU game flying high after a 4-0 start, and some experts across the country even jumped on the Terps bandwagon and gave them a shot to pull off a shocking upset against the ‘Noles.
Those hopes were dashed fairly early.
However, Randy Edsall still has a group that is poised to push for a bowl berth one year after going 4-8. Despite the lopsided defeat, there were enough glimmers of hope to give Terps’ supporters reason to believe that these types of defeats won’t happen again in the future.
9. Seminoles Skill Group Resembles Those of Dynasty Years
Lost in all of the attention paid to Winston is the fact that Florida State’s skill positions are stocked to a level similar to what they enjoyed in the '90s when the ‘Noles were a national powerhouse.
The receiver trio of Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin—who combined to collect 14 receptions for 264 yards and three scores against the Terps—and tight end Nick O’Leary (four catches for 55 yards and two scores) gives Winston perhaps the nation’s best collection of targets to throw to.
Running backs Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams are all physical backs who are a load to deal with—especially inside the red zone.
With a talent like Winston at the controls, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see FSU’s offense putting up big numbers week in and week out.
8. Terps Offense Could Be in Trouble Without Brown
Maryland’s offense entered Saturday’s game 17th nationally in total offense, averaging a shade under 500 yards of total offense per game, according to cfbstats.com.
Much of the Terps' success came because of their opponents’ inability to slow down dual-threat quarterback C.J. Brown.
Florida State had no such problems, and things went from bad to worse after Brown was knocked out of the game with an injury late in the first half.
While backup Caleb Rowe is a capable passer, Maryland’s offense loses a big component without Brown’s running ability. If Brown misses an extended period of time, Maryland’s offense will have to adjust in order to generate more production from the ground game.
7. ‘Noles Defensive Line Steps Up
Florida State’s defense—particularly its defensive line—bore the brunt of the criticism after allowing Boston College to rack up 200 rushing yards and 34 points on them last week, as noted by Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel.
This week, FSU limited the Terps to 234 yards of total offense, including just 33 yards on the ground.
The return of starting defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. proved to be huge for the ‘Noles, and their efforts to stuff the run. Now, FSU’s challenge becomes to try and consistently get this type of play from the defensive line moving forward.
6. Terps Defense Stumbles Late
Maryland’s defense had also posted strong numbers heading into its league opener.
After FSU scored on its opening possession, Maryland was able to generate stops on three consecutive possessions.
However, with the Maryland offense stuck in neutral, FSU finally got things rolling by getting a pair of scoring drives before halftime. Those two scores were a part of a run in which the Seminoles scored touchdowns on eight consecutive possessions.
While FSU is clearly an elite offense, Maryland’s defense has to demonstrate more resiliency heading into the teeth of conference play.
5. FSU Offensive Line Steps Up in Stork’s Absence
After starting center Bryan Stork left the game midway through the second quarter with a concussion, the first series without him resulted in a rare punt for the ‘Noles offense.
However, backup Austin Barron was able to settle in, and FSU finished the half strong with two consecutive touchdown drives to end the first half and take a 21-0 lead into halftime.
Perhaps more importantly, if Stork is out for an extended period, Barron’s strong play has to make Jimbo Fisher confident that the offense can still get it done up front in his absence.
4. Special Teams Could Cost ‘Noles Down the Road
If there is one area that has to concern Florida State fans, it’s the play of its special teams units.
Ironically, their woes have nothing to do with an inept place-kicker. Instead, its punter Cason Beatty and the coverage return units that could cost the ‘Noles dearly down the road.
Although Beatty averaged 42 yards per punt on his four attempts, he was consistently slow in getting his punts off, and he could be susceptible to a costly block unless he significantly improves.
FSU’s coverage units did look markedly better than the BC game, but Terps return man Will Likely was able to break loose on a 32-yard kickoff return in the first quarter.
Considering the athletes available to FSU’s coverage units, there’s no excuse for the ‘Noles to be below average in this area.
3. FSU Has Momentum Entering Clemson Game
After a week of wondering whether the FSU's slow start against Boston College was starting to become a trend, the mood in Tallahassee is bound to be on a considerable upswing with a bye week coming before the Oct. 19 trip to Clemson.
The hype for the Atlantic Division showdown in Death Valley has been simmering for some time, but FSU supporters are likely to be very anxious in anticipation of the clash between Top 10 teams in two weeks.
In particular, FSU’s defense will carry a different attitude into that game after waxing the Terps in dominant fashion.
2. Defense Puts Together Best Effort
Winston aside, the biggest change in the offseason in Tallahassee was the arrival of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and a scheme transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4.
Through four games, the results were a mixed bag. FSU had put up decent statistics, but the general consensus was that the ‘Noles defense looked to still be thinking instead of reacting.
After the Terps missed a 51-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter, Maryland would only run four plays on the FSU side of the field, and none on its final eight drives of the game.
All in all, it was the type of effort that showed the country what the ‘Noles are capable of if they are firing on all cylinders.
1. Winston Keeps Climbing
In what is quickly becoming a weekly trend, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston continued his outstanding debut season on the college level with another performance that is sure to elevate his standing in the Heisman Trophy race.
Winston went 22-of-31 for 393 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions. Oh, and as B/R’s Kyle Newport shows us, he does ridiculous stuff like this.
As the Twitter account of ESPN’s stats and info department notes, Winston’s 17 touchdown passes are the most by any player in their first five career games over the last 10 seasons.
With a rare talent like Winston leading them, it’s clear that Florida State is a real contender to make some noise in the national title hunt.