Florida State Seminoles running back Ryan Green (24) runs the ball past Nevada Wolf Pack defensive back Markus Smith (7) during the second half of the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. (Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida state receiver Kenny Shaw told Jameis Winston this week that he wants his young quarterback to “stay away” from the nickname given to him by Seminole fans: “Famous Jameis.”
But with each game, and each dazzling performance by Winston, that will become increasingly harder.
Winston’s Labor Day night debut at hostile Heinz Field was the stuff of legend — passing for 365 yards and scoring five total touchdowns with just two incompletions and no interceptions in a 41-13 rout —- and he was equally magnificent following a slow start Saturday during the 10th-ranked Seminoles’ 62-7 smashing of Nevada, which was without star QB Cody Fajardo.
“No one on the team really said anything to him after the slow start,” FSU receiver Rashad Greene said. “It was all encouragement that we gave him. We had a lot of football to still to play.”
Fajardo was ruled out just hours before kickoff, but it likely wouldn’t have mattered.
Winston, the former No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation, finished 15-of-18 — including 13 completions in a row after two early errant throws and a pick — for 214 yards and two scores. He also rushed for a touchdown before being pulled late in the fourth quarter with FSU comfortably ahead 48-7.
Florida State also got a jolt from its running game with five players scoring touchdowns in the rout, as Devonta Freeman and recently converted safety Karlos Williams stole the show. Both found the end zone Saturday as Williams led the way with eight carries for 110 yards and a TD in his first action since moving to offense. Williams, the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation a year ago, took the first handoff of his career around the right end on the Seminoles’ second drive of the third quarter, turned it on and galloped 65 yards untouched for a score.
“I’m not going to say that I was rubbing a crystal ball, but that guy is talented cat,” said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher of the eyebrows that were raised when he moved Williams to running back. “He’s very dynamic with the ball. He’s big, he’s strong and explosive. He’s a natural.”
Freeman finished with 109 yards on nine carries and a touchdown, while Ryan Green contributed 78 yards and a score and Wilder notched 45 yards and a TD. Winston also rushed for a 10-yard touchdown as part of a 31-point third quarter for Florida State, which finished with a staggering 377 yards on the ground.
Nevada’s run defense, which has now given up 891 yards through three games, was once again a glaring weakness.
The Wolf Pack trailed just 17-7 at halftime but watched helplessly as Florida State blew the game after that, scoring three touchdowns in the opening 3:43 of the second half. Nevada’s ugly start out of the locker room was eerily similar to its season opener against No. 16 UCLA when the it hung with the Bruins through two quarters and were behind just 17-13 at halftime. Nevada was then outscored 41-7 in the second half and lost 58-20.
“Obviously, the second half stunk,” Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian said. “But there are no excuses. We talked about doing a better job coming out of the half. And really, I think, you can tell the difference between a BCS top 10 team and a Mountain West (team). That’s top 10 athleticism in the country right there, and we can’t afford to make mistakes like that.”
Nevada was making its first trip in school history to Sunshine State and left with a desert-sized beating. FSU outgained Nevada 627-214. Chris Solomon led Nevada offensively with 26 carries for 108 yards, but they were hard-fought against the Seminoles’ defense, which was led by six tackles each from Lamarcus Joyner and Terrance Brooks, as well as heralded DB Tyler Hunter’s first pick of the season.
Hunter said the defense didn’t panic when it fell behind early.
“It was just everybody staying calm, knowing that coach has a plan and if everybody does their job, we’ll be fine,” Hunter said. “So we just came to the sideline and made the adjustments and knew we would be fine after that.”
Nevada grabbed a 7-3 lead midway through the second quarter as Winston showed both rust and nerves early on, which may have been due to FSU’s unusually long layoff of nearly two weeks between games. Stepping in for Fajardo was Devin Combs, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior from Oakdale, Calif., who had never started a game for Nevada and only saw action twice last season. Following an opening-drive field goal by Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo from 23 yards out. Winston made the first mistake of the game, throwing a pick on first down deep in Seminoles territory on FSU’s next possession that was intercepted by Bryson Keeton. That led to Combs hooking up with star wideout Brandon Wimberly from 11 yards out early in the second quarter for the score. Wimberly finished with just five catches for 23 yards and Nevada’s only touchdown, but his first grab on Nevada’s opening play from scrimmage marked his 43rd straight game with a catch — the longest active streak in the nation.
That was about the only positive Saturday for Nevada, which held a lead after Wimberly’s TD for all of eight minutes before being outscored 59-0 the rest of the way. The scoring onslaught started with a pair of 24-yard touchdown passes from Winston to receivers Kenny Shaw and Greene just before halftime for a 17-7 Seminoles lead, and it ended with less than two minutes to play when Green walked in from a yard out. Shaw led FSU in receiving with six catches for 96 yards, followed by Greene with three receptions for 39 yards.
With FSU comfortably ahead 45-7 late in the third, Winston was pulled for backup Jacob Coker. Nevada’s starter Combs was also pulled, but his benching was due to a knee injury suffered in the first half. That paved the way for redshirt freshman Tyler Stewart to come on, although Stewart wasn’t very effective either, finishing 7-of-14 for 49 yards and a pick.
“Good win,” said Fisher, whose team will next host Bethune-Cookman. “I was proud of our kids. We dealt with adversity really well.”
NOTES: Before Nevada, Florida State’s last victory over a Mountain West opponent was a 17-8 win against Utah State in 1975, while its last game against a MWC foe was 1977 when the Seminoles were thumped by San Diego State 41-16. … Aguayo added a 33-yard field goal to cap a 31-point third quarter for FSU and is now 4-for-4 on the season as he tries to fill the shoes of ACC and NCAA all-time scoring leader for kickers, Dustin Hopkins. … Freshman fullback Freddie Stevenson tacked on the Seminoles’ second-to-last score of the game in the fourth quarter from one yard out. … Oakland Raiders kicker and former FSU star Sebastian Janikowski was one of eight new members inducted into the Seminoles’ Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday. … FSU, which is now 34-2 in its last 36 home openers, last lost a home opener in 2009 when it fell to rival Miami 38-34. … Had he played, Fajardo, a junior, would’ve only needed 43 yards rushing to become the second Nevada quarterback in school history to run for 2,000, joining current San Francisco 49ers starting QB Colin Kaepernick (4,112 career yards) in the Wolf Pack record books.