Florida State receiver and Albany native Rashad Greene led the Seminoles in receiving last week against Pitt with eight catches for 126 yards and a TD and will be key again today as FSU hosts Nevada for its home opener. (Reuters News Service)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State gave Pittsburgh a rude welcome to the Atlantic Coast Conference in front of a national television audience on Labor Day with a 41-13 thrashing on the Panthers’ home field.
Now the 10th-ranked Seminoles will look to make Nevada’s first-ever trip to the Sunshine State equally unpleasant.
The Wolfpack, who have never played a game in Florida, will visit the Seminoles today in FSU’s home opener and the first meeting between the two schools. Nevada is coming off a 36-7 win against FCS program UC-Davis, and the Wolfpack already have two games under their belt following a season-opening 58-20 loss to No. 16 UCLA. FSU (1-0), meanwhile, will have had 12 days of rest by the time kickoff arrives today. And Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher welcomed the bye week after just one game.
“I think it’s extremely hard to go from a Monday-night game right back to Saturday, especially on a road game when you get back so late. We didn’t get home until five o’clock that morning,” said the fourth-year head coach, who is now 4-0 in season openers and — heading into today — 3-0 in home openers since taking over in 2009. “(With that short of a turnaround) your kids can’t even get quality work in to go against an opponent. I also think it’s good because we had a very physical camp and were a little banged up going into that game. So I think (the bye week) actually came at a very good time.”
As long as the extra down time doesn’t cool off freshman starting quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles will be fine.
Winston, the No. 1 high school quarterback recruit in the nation two years ago, made his long-anticipated debut last Monday night — and it was one to remember. The 19-year-old dual-threat from Hueytown, Ala., put together the best debut by a freshman quarterback in school history, completing a near-flawless 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, while also rushing for a score.
“I wasn’t surprised,” FSU defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said of Winston, who surpassed former starter Danny Kanell’s 1993 debut as the best in school history by a freshman. “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.’ “
Any nerves Winston had coming in quickly melted away, leading the way to 28 first-half points.
“Of course I had butterflies,” said Winston, who is the NCAA’s No. 1-rated passer in the nation (252.2) after one game. “I mean, if you don’t have butterflies, you’re not a football player.”
But don’t think for one second that Fisher is planning on his budding superstar having another field day Saturday, even against a Nevada defense that was gashed for 647 yards by UCLA.
“(Our preparations) better not be (any different). If it’s any different, we are going to get bit in the tail,” Fisher said. “This is a very good football team, very well-coached football team. Whoever the opponent is, we have to respect them.”
Fisher certainly respects the ability of All-Mountain West Conference quarterback Cody Fajardo, a former California High School Player of the Year. The junior was nearly as accurate as Winston in Nevada’s win last week, completing 18 of 21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) before being pulled in the third quarter with the game well in hand. Fisher is also familiar with the ability of Wolfpack first-year coach Brian Polian, the son of former Super Bowl-winning Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian. And he knows Polian, who earned his first career win as a head coach last week, won’t be “intimidated to come in here.”
“Great tradition at Nevada, great coaching, they play a lot of big-time games,” Fisher said. “Their quarterback is very athletic and creates a play with his arm. He can create plays with his legs, ad-lib when they break down. They run the pistol offense with a lot of different looks, a lot of no-huddles, which our defense will be extremely challenged with.”
Nevada, which is averaging 219 yards rushing through two games (33rd in the nation), will have its own challenges keeping up with the Seminoles, who enter the game as whopping 33-point favorites. FSU has an experienced offensive line that gave Winston all day to throw and pick apart Pitt, which also allowed junior wide receiver and Albany native Rashad Greene and junior tight end Nick O’Leary to combine for 12 catches, 171 yards and four touchdowns.
Additionally, the Seminoles have two bruising running backs in Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. who ran at will against the Panthers. And this week, they’ll add the services of recently converted safety Karlos Williams. Williams, the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation two years ago, came to FSU with expectations he’d become a defensive star in the secondary, but he was moved to running back last week. Fisher said this week he expects to work Williams into the rotation against Nevada. And adding another weapon to an already potent offense is the last thing any of FSU’s opponents want to see.
“That’s a good thing for us,” Greene said. “I feel like our teammates like for (the playmakers) to have the ball in our hands just to give us an opportunity to win.”