November 3, 2013

Insider Report: Winston struggles - if only briefly

The quarterback bleeds; there's proof now.
Jameis Winston finally proved that he was human on Saturday - if only for a moment. Florida State's redshirt freshman phenom has been otherworldly consistent so far this season, but uncharacteristically struggled in the first half of FSU's 41-14 stomping of Miami. Winston threw two picks in the first half that both resulted in Miami touchdowns and finished the first half 7-12 passing.

What's more, those two Miami touchdowns were enough to keep the FSU lead to just seven points at halftime.

"We had a great first drive and then I forced the interception to Rashad. Then we had another great drive and I threw another pick," Winston said. "That was a lot of adversity. … They (my teammates) really put me on their shoulders and carried me the whole way."

It was the closest thing to a poor half that Winston has had this season. Miami largely abandoned the blitz in favor of dropping more players into coverage. Winston forced balls into that coverage and overthrew wide-open receivers. His second pick was intended for Nick O'Leary but was badly behind the receiver.

"You watched him make mistakes, face adversity then put it behind him in the second half," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I'd have to look at it but I don't remember very many mistakes in the second half. That's the mark of a good player, who can handle that. Most young guys can't. I'm very proud of him that way."

At halftime, Winston made a promise to his teammates: No mas.

"I said, 'Guys I'm not turning the ball over any more,'" Winston said. "That was the only reason I felt they scored. Our defense played an amazing game…. I went to the defense and said, 'I promise you I'm not turning the ball over.'"

Winston made good on his promise - and turned in a nearly flawless second half. He finished the second half 12-14 passing with 164 yards passing, shying away from deep throws in favor of check-downs and dump-offs to wide open running backs. Winston finished with a still-impressive 21-29 passing for 325 yards and a touchdown with two picks.
Devonta Freeman finished as FSU's leading receiver with 98 yards - most of them after the catch. And with no turnovers to give them short fields, Miami's offense sputtered. FSU outscored Miami 20-0 in the second half.

"That's what it's all about," Winston said. "That's how your character is determined with your team. They had to see that in me that I had to bounce back and they had my back the whole game. I made a few mistakes and I had to bounce back."

second-half scuffle ignites Florida State

In the second half of Saturday's game, things got a little chippy. Following a deep FSU pass to the Miami one-yard line, Miami defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo and FSU right tackle Bobby Hart became embroiled in a scuffle.

The altercation quickly mushroomed to other members of the team while FSU teammates tried to haul Chickillo and Hart apart. Upon replay, it appeared as though Chickillo's hands were inside Hart's facemask after the play was dead. In the ensuing scuffle, Tre Jackson and Tracy Howard were charged with offsetting personal fouls, but the focus was on Chickillo and Hart.

After the play, an irate Fisher laid in to Hart before Winston stepped in to try and calm things down.

"I told Bobby, 'Hey we need you more than anything man, calm down I got your back,'" Winston said. "I was there with them, I pulled the guy off, I said, 'I was there with you, let's just beat them real bad for doing this to you.'"

Apparently, the scuffle was the extra juice FSU needed to break open a close game. FSU scored on the next play on a one-yard touchdown run by James Wilder and the Seminoles attacked on both sides of the ball with an extra edge the rest of the night.

"It gave us the boost we needed and we just took the momentum from there," Hart said. "It turned out for the best I guess."

Winston said that scuffle changed the entire tone of the game.

"It's on," Winston said. "We're not taking any prisoners. We don't care about those guys anymore. We respected them at first because they're a great team and they have great players, but after that skirmish all that nice stuff, all the game day and all that stuff of them being compared to us: all that stuff is over. We knew we had one goal and that was to beat them bad."

Devonta Freeman, already playing with extra fire, lowered his shoulder on a Miami defender in a drive following the scuffle. So did Nick O'Leary, dishing out a little extra punishment to Miami defenders.

"You expect those guys to be skill players, but when you see them going how hard you're going it definitely gives you a boost," Hart said.

Terrance Smith continues strong play

FSU linebacker Terrance Smith has long been a practice phenom, drawing rave reviews from coaches but rarely seeing the field in his freshman season last year. As a sophomore, Smith has worked his way into a starting middle linebacker spot and he hasn't disappointed.

Smith yet again led FSU in tackles on Saturday with 10, including six solo stops and an assist on a tackle for loss. He led an FSU defense that bottled Miami and explosive running back Duke Johnson and surrendered just one run longer than 20 yards.

"We have something to prove every week," Smith said. "Every time somebody steps in here it's our job to go out and dominate and do what we do."

Saturday's game was Smith's second double-digit tackle game. He also recorded 10 against Bethune-Cookman. So far this season Smith has 38 tackles, good for third on the team.

  • Florida State's flavor of the week with defensive backs continued on Saturday as P.J. Williams and Nate Andrews each picked up their second pick of the season. So far, eight different FSU players have picks this year.

  • Florida State punted once Saturday, and not until the 14:56 mark of the fourth quarter.

  • FSU converted a whopping 11 of 15 third-down attempts. It's not even the season high for FSU in a single game: against Clemson, FSU converted 75 percent of its third-down attempts. So far this season FSU is 47 of 84 (56 percent) on third down and a whopping 19 of 27 on third down against ranked teams (70.4 percent)

  • Terrence Brooks recorded his first career sack Saturday.

  • James Wilder's multi-touchdown game was the first since the 2012 ACC championship game. Wilder came back after missing a week with a concussion and finished with nine carries for 42 yards.

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