We’d all heard the whispers in the spring.
When Jameis Winston completed 12-of-15 passes for 205 yards and touchdowns in the Florida State spring game, he was immediately anointed the second coming of Charlie Ward.
But it wasn’t until Winston showed that unbelievable skill, poise and precision on the road, at Pittsburgh, in front of a national television audience, did the nation sit up and take notice.
And we were all witnesses to his greatness.
Great is not a word that should be thrown around lightly and perhaps it’s not appropriate to throw around after the first game of the season. But when a redshirt freshman goes on the road and completes 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns and rushes for another 25 yards and a score against a conference foe, there’s no ignoring the magic you’ve just seen.
Even former Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel couldn't help but comment on what they were watching.
On the edge of my seat watching J pick em apart! #proud
— EJ Manuel (@EJManuel3) September 3, 2013
Winston didn’t play like a freshman. He stood tall in the pocket, went through his progressions, didn’t spook when things were collapsing around him. His greatest mistake was handing the ball a little too loosely and having it harmlessly roll out of bounds after a tackle.
He watched Florida State take an early gut punch from Pitt and he punched right back. And he kept punching until coach Jimbo Fisher finally decided Pitt had had enough for the night after Winston’s fourth passing touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Does the Heisman have a new frontrunner? It’s probably too early to say especially after how well players such as Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and even reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel played over the weekend. But Winston is definitely in the conversation.
What’s exciting for fans is that we could see similar performances from Winston during the next month and a half. The Seminoles face Nevada, which allowed 58 points to UCLA, Bethune-Cookman from the FCS, Boston College, which struggled with Villanova, and Maryland, which might be the only formidable opponent of the group.
Winston could dominate the nation in passing before the Seminoles hit ACC rival Clemson on Oct. 19. And that might be the first time we actually get to say whether Winston is a star or a product of his schedule.
But let’s not go there right now.
Winston’s performance was too special to pull the “he played a weak opponent” card. That would be a disservice to Winston, his teammates and even Pitt, which tried its damndest to deal with a force for which they were not prepared or equipped to handle.
And even though we all might be giddy at the redshirt freshman's play, he's the first to tell the college football world to pump its brakes.
"I'm not even thinking about that right now," Winston said after the game of the hype. "It's a process. And we've got to keep doing, we've got to keep winning. That's the most important thing and I'm just happy to celebrate this with my dad, my family and the FSU 'Noles.
"It's just one game, just one game."
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