TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The list of former top high school football prospects who never met the lofty expectations set for them is long and includes names like Willie Williams and Fred Rouse.
But for at least one night, former top quarterback prospect Jameis Winston lived up to the hype and then some for the Florida State Seminoles. Winston electrified Seminoles fans as he sliced up the Pittsburgh Panthers defense leading FSU to a 41-13 thumping of the ACC’s newest member.
Winston was sensational in his first start, completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and added another 25 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown as well. Head coach Jimbo Fisher knows he has a star in the making, but tried to temper expectations just a bit.
“It’s one ballgame, guys,” Fisher said. “He played one game, but he did a great job.”
It didn’t matter the down or distance for Winston against the Panthers defense. He threw on 1st down and led the Noles offense on a night where it looked like he was throwing against air his receivers were so wide open.
“I wasn’t surprised,” cornerback LaMarcus Joyner said. “I told him pregame you go against the best every day … and the way you rip us apart sometimes in scrimmages, we know you can do it against anyone in the nation.”
Consider his first opponent’s head coach impressed too. Pitt had been pointing to their ACC debut for more than a year and wanted to jump into the conference with a victory over the biggest fish in the ACC sea.
But thanks to Winston’s dazzling performance, it wasn’t to be for Pitt.
“I was certainly impressed with him,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. “He did a good job of making plays and extending plays.”
Winston won the starting job during training camp, edging out Jacob Coker to become just the third freshman to start a season opener for the Seminoles.
Don’t plan on him giving up the gig anytime soon.
A star outfielder on the school baseball team, Winston is considered the latest in a line of two-sport threats at Florida State, a list that includes Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and 1993 Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward.
Ward, however, didn’t become a star until he finally cracked the starting lineup as a junior. Winston appears to already be there one game into his career. He connected on his first 11 passes, missing on his 12th when wide receiver Kenny Shaw couldn’t quite get his right foot all the way inbounds.
“I was confident I got it in,” Shaw said with a laugh. “I’m used to the refs not being on our side.”
Winston’s only other incompletion came while he escaped pressure late in the third quarter. By then the Seminoles were in command 31-13 after Winston spent three quarters serving up what the Seminoles hope is an appetizer of things to come as they battle Clemson for ACC supremacy.
Winston’s ability will not be tested in the coming weeks as the Noles play Nevada, Bethune-Cookman, Boston College, and Maryland. But everything will be on the line for FSU when the Noles head to Clemson to take on the Tigers and then two weeks later battle Miami in Tallahassee.
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