FSU's Winston rebounds from shaky start
September, 14, 2013
By David M. Hale | ESPN.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The throw proved Jameis Winston was fallible.
In his first game, Winston missed on just two passes. In his second, he chucked three of his first five throws off line, including a high toss down the middle of the field that made for an easy interception for Nevada's Bryson Keeton.
It was inevitable, of course, that the overnight sensation would eventually flub a throw, but after his remarkable debut against Pittsburgh, fans were ready to believe Winston was a superhero. He took the field at Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time on Saturday wanting desperately to prove them right, and that was his first mistake.
"First home game, I was pumped, but the thing is, I tried to do too much," Winston said. "I forced that turnover. I wasn't even supposed to go back there. I messed up."
By the time Florida State's 62-7 drubbing of Nevada was over, however, it wasn't the interception that was the story of Winston's second career start, but rather the aftermath.
Jimbo Fisher knew the mistakes were inevitable. What he didn't know before Saturday was how Winston would rebound.
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFSU redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston was 15-of-18 passing for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
"He knew what he did," Fisher said. "We explained it to him."
Fisher has a reputation for explaining mistakes to his quarterbacks in volatile fashion, but this was different. As the Wolfpack's offense pushed the ball down the field for its lone score in the wake of Winston's interception, Fisher made three trips along the sideline to pat his quarterback on the shoulder, offer some insight and gauge his response.
"He didn't give me no long speech, no long lecture," Winston said. "He just said, 'Adversity is here. What are you going to do?' "
On Florida State's next drive, Winston took a sack rather than risk another bad throw. That was progress, Fisher said.
On the six drives that followed that, the Seminoles found the end zone.
Following the interception, Winston finished the game by completing 13 straight passes, two of which went for touchdowns. And with nearly five minutes left in the third quarter, he was resting comfortably on the bench as Florida State trotted its second-team offense onto the field to protect an enormous lead.
"He made a mistake, and he didn't get gun-shy," Fisher said. "He went right back into it and started making throws and making plays."
It wasn't just that Winston exploited an overmatched Nevada defense. It was his arm that unraveled a Wolfpack game plan that had worked so well through the first 20 minutes of action.
Winston hit Kenny Shaw for a 24-yard touchdown to right the ship with 3:21 to go in the half, then expertly led the offense on a four-play, 56-yard drive in the two-minute drill, capping the half with a gorgeous throw along the sideline to Rashad Greene for a touchdown.
"After that," Winston said, "the show was on the road."
Florida State put points on the board on its next seven drives, including a third touchdown for Winston on a 10-yard run. Through two games, he's now thrown more touchdowns (six) than incompletions (five).
And yet, after the game, it was that interception that was the story. Teammates shrugged off his poised response to the early struggles. They'd seen it during practice again and again, Greene said.
Fisher, too, wasn't surprised. He knew Winston would struggle, and he understands some lessons must be learned the hard way.
"[Mistakes] are going to happen in bigger games and bigger moments," Fisher said. "You just keep growing with it, and you've got to remember he's a freshman."
But on the sideline after that throw, Winston wasn't interested in perspective, and he had no intention of using his lack of experience as a crutch.
After Fisher delivered his brief sermon, a few teammates surrounded Winston to offer some advice of their own. Winston apologized for the interception. Teammates told him it would prepare him for the future. Winston shook his head.
"No," he told them. "I don't want to see that in the future."