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Winston, FSU brush trouble, Syracuse aside

The SportsXchange

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jameis Winston's fate relating to a sexual assault investigation may take weeks to sort out.

In the meantime, Florida State's freshman quarterback will keep trying to dominate every team in his path.

Winston effectively eliminated what coach Jimbo Fisher often refers to as "clutter" on Saturday in front of anxious fans at Doak Campbell Stadium, passing for 277 yards and two touchdowns in one half of play to lead the No. 2 Seminoles past Syracuse, 59-3.

"We got in a groove, man; it's always good to be back home," Winston said. "We got off to a fast start, and our defense was amazing. We try to make people go into remission. We try to make them quit. And the way we keep playing, we're going to be hard to beat."

Winston, the Heisman Trophy frontrunner whose name was connected to a 2012 sexual assault investigation earlier this week that had been dormant for 11 months before being re-opened Wednesday, did not play in the second half.

He didn't need too.

Florida State (10-0 overall, 8-0 in the ACC) raced out to a 38-0 halftime lead, and is 10-0 for the sixth time in school history, the first since the Seminoles' 1999 national title season.

"We kept the focus and execution throughout the game; very proud of that," said Fisher, who declined yet again to discuss Winston's legal situation.

"(All things considered), I thought Jameis played exceptionally. He was 19-of-21 (passing), got the ball to his receivers. Just another very efficient game for him. I'm very proud of him."

The state attorney's office investigating the allegations said Saturday that it expected a decision in determining Winston's role in the sexual assault case "by next week or the week after."

The timing of the decision is crucial because should Winston be charged with a felony, he would immediately be suspended under Florida State's athletic department policy for student-athletes.

Saturday, however, Winston had the green light to play -- and he was spectacular as usual.

With stars from the 1993 national title team on hand to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Florida State's first national championship before kickoff, the march to the program's third championship continued shortly after.

The Orange's defense, which had given up only a field goal in its last two games, was gashed for 28 first-quarter points, including a highlight-reel 74-yard run by Kermit Whitfield that was aided by a block from Winston that brought the crowd of 74,491 to its feet.

Whitfield took the handoff from Winston at and found the open field with one man to beat. Out of nowhere came a sprinting Winston, who laid a lick on Julian Whigham of Syracuse some 50 yards from the line of scrimmage to free Whitfield for the score.

The Seminoles' sideline erupted in front of their quarterback as he sprang to his feet, rushing toward the end zone to celebrate.

Wide receiver Kenny Shaw led Florida State with seven catches for 99 yards, while the Seminoles' rushing attack was paced by Karlos Williams, who ran for 78 yards on only four carries.

Florida State's fourth-ranked FBS defense got big games from Reggie Northup, who had 11 tackles, and Chris Casher, who forced a fumble in the third quarter that he returned for a 31-yard touchdown.

Syracuse's only points came on a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Norton late in the fourth quarter, spoiling the shutout.

"We work hard on our younger guys," defensive end Timmy Jernigan said of the second-team defense not preserving the goose egg. "We work hard to put zero points on the board. And we expect it to stay that way."

Syracuse (5-5, 3-3) was held to only 68 yards of offense before intermission and was outgained overall, 523-247. The Orange saw their two-game winning streak snapped.

Running back Jerome Smith of Syracuse, who came into the game tied for the ACC lead with 11 touchdowns, managed only five yards on five carries.

The Orange's other standout back, Prince-Tyson Gulley, sustained a lower-body injury on his first carry and didn't return. Devante McFarlane paced Syracuse on the ground with 14 carries for 85 yards.

Florida State, which has the No. 1-ranked pass defense in the nation, shut down Syracuse's air attack, giving up only 104 yards through the air.

"Hat's off to Jimbo Fisher and Florida State," coach Scott Shafer of Syracuse said. "That's one of the best football teams I've seen in my 23 years coaching.

"The most positive thing I get out of this (loss) is now we know where the bar is set and what we need to try and do in the next few years to try to compete against a team of this caliber."

Syracuse will try to become bowl-eligible for the third straight season next week at home against Pittsburgh.

"We've got two games left (at home) and that's key," Shafer said. "We've got to get this Pitt outfit in the dome and go to war right away."

After halftime, Florida State fans got a look at Winston's potential replacement should the starter's status suddenly change. Winston was 10-for-10 for 170 yards in the first quarter and was done by halftime.

He was replaced to start the third quarter by fellow freshman Sean Maguire, Winston's roommate who Seminole fans were eager to see in action after Maguire was anointed the backup this week in place of injured sophomore Jacob Coker.

Maguire, who had thrown only two passes in five games before to Saturday, was solid in relief, leading a drive out of halftime that ended with James Wilder Jr.'s second touchdown run to put Florida State comfortably ahead, 45-0.

Maguire's second drive featured a beautiful touch pass to tight end Nick O'Leary for a 17-yard score.

NOTES: Florida State's victory continued its recent ACC dominance, stretching its conference win streak to 14 games dating to last season, while outscoring opponents, 632-183, in that span. ... Syracuse also faced the No. 2 team in the nation last season when it played USC, which beat the Orange, 42-29. ... Florida State leads the all-time series against Syracuse, 6-1, including six wins in a row ... Florida State's freshman kicker Roberto Aguayo broke the ACC record for consecutive extra points in a season, 67 straight, after entering the game 61-of-61 and making eight in a row Saturday. Aguayo also added a career-long field goal of 53 yards in the first half.
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