“I think he showed himself as one of the best players in all of football,” Norvell said in his weekly Monday news conference.
Though the opponents’ records and lopsided victories won’t grab Heisman Trophy voters’ attention, the circumstances should.
One of FSU’s top receivers, Johnny Wilson, missed both games due to injury. The Seminoles’ other star receiver, Keon Coleman, sat out against Pitt. Two other receivers on the depth chart, co-starter Destyn Hill and five-star freshman Hykeem Williams, couldn’t play at Wake Forest, while Lakewood High alumnus Deuce Spann was sidelined against the Panthers.
Even with all those injuries, Travis responded with his two most prolific games of the season. He passed for a season-high 359 yards against the Demon Deacons, then broke that mark by throwing for 360 at Pitt. He accounted for six touchdowns to help No. 4 FSU remain perfect heading into Saturday’s rivalry game against Miami.
“He’s so good at making the 10 other guys out there on the field around him better,” Norvell said.
That’s evident by some of the seemingly mundane details of his performances. His first six completions at Pitt went to six different receivers. One of them, Darion Williamson, was making his first career start. Another, Ja’Khi Douglas, didn’t have a catch through the first seven games but has eight over the last two.
Their success isn’t all because of Travis, of course. The receivers deserve credit for being ready for their opportunity. Norvell and his staff recruited and developed well enough to shrug off the absence of two future early-round NFL draft picks, then came up with a game plan to win convincingly without them.
But Travis has proven his ability to spread the ball across his lineup — a sign of his maturity, experience and skill in dissecting a defense. His 19 touchdown passes this season have been caught by nine different players. Of FSU’s three Heisman-winning quarterbacks, only one matches that kind of distribution:
Jameis Winston (2013): 40 touchdown passes to 6 different players
Chris Weinke (2000): 33 touchdown passes to 6 different players
Charlie Ward (1993): 27 touchdown passes to 9 different players
Travis’ numbers also compare favorably with this year’s Heisman candidates, including Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Michael Penix Jr.:
Penix, Washington: 26 touchdown passes to 7 different players
Travis’ development has drawn the attention of the Hurricanes. After playing against Travis three previous times, defensive back Te’Cory Couch said the quarterback’s running ability set him apart. But Couch has seen something different on film this season.
“He’s just been standing in the pocket making good passes this year, which is kind of different for him,” Couch said.
Regardless, their absences gave Travis a chance to highlight one of the overlooked, underappreciated parts of his game — a trait that, if nothing else, kept FSU’s College Football Playoff hopes on track through an unfortunate situation.
“If anybody comes (in) wanting to know more about our quarterback, you go and watch these last two weeks and you see what he is,” Norvell said. “That’s why he’s being mentioned for the greatest award that you can have in college football — deservingly so.”
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