FSU: First-Time in Primetime

Jameis Winston debuts at Pitt (photo courtesy of Sportige.com)

Jameis Winston debuts at Pitt (photo courtesy of Sportige.com)

ESPN wrongfully called him a “legend in the making.” All I’m saying is let’s not put the cart before the horse or jinx this poor kid after only FOUR quarters of college football. Albeit four quarters of some of the most impressive quarterbacking we’ve seen in a while, but still just four quarters of play…

Being inside Heinz Field Monday night to witness the #12 Seminoles graciously “welcome” Pitt into the ACC with a 41-13 victory and seeing Jameis Winston’s legendary debut game firsthand, along with 15,000 other Florida State fans who traveled to Pittsburgh was beyond words. Dammit, there I go using the word legendary.

But I hate to see this Madden-cover curse, Heisman early-talks curse, or any of those other fabled sports-curse take over before we’ve really even seen #5 in full on action (like Clemson, which we’re all waiting with baited breath for to see who really reigns in the ACC).

For starters, the redshirt freshman from Hueytown, Ala. connected on his first 11 passes (with the 12th being a semi-controversial call on whether the receiver was inbounds). To look at Winston’s numbers from a different angle – Tom Savage, Pitt’s quarterback, threw as many interceptions as Winston threw incompletions. That’s unheard of unless your quarterback is JaMarcus Russell. Jameis was nearly perfect on every level completing 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and five touchdowns (throwing for four and running one in), and even showing some agility and aggressiveness as a blocker.

Jameis Winston made all kinds of crazy history Monday night, becoming the only quarterback in the last 10 seasons to throw for 3 touchdowns and rush for one in the 1st half of his 1st career game. How’s that for a NCAA bar trivia question?

Winston completed 17 of his 18 passes for 240 yards and three of his touchdowns in the first half alone, along with help on the defensive side of the ball (minus that first play where Pitt scored a TD) and the rest of his offense. It’s not everyday you see a football team score four straight possessions just before the half, so if you’re wondering where all the Pitt fans went, they probably went home to drown their newly appointed ACC hangovers.

FSU Welcoming Pitt to the ACC

FSU Welcoming Pitt to the ACC

Jameis set a new school record (minimum 15 pass attempts) for completion percentage in a game (92.6 percent). The record was previously held by Florida State great, Danny Kanell, who still completed an impressive 87.5 percent against NC State’s Wolfpack. But history was meant to be broken and legends were meant to be born. Dammit, I said it again.

Other quarterbacks with impressive garnet and gold debuts (via ESPN Stats & Information):

Chris Weinke (1998) 21-36, 207 Yds, TD

Danny Kanell (1993) 28-38, 341 Yds, 5 TD

Charlie Ward (1992) 17-33, 269 Yds, 4 TD

Brad Johnson (1990) 20-28, 187 Yds, 3 TD

I am not an FSU fan wearing rose-colored glasses; it’s quite the opposite. I’m actually trying to pump the brakes, and wait for more. Haven’t you ever left a first date feeling all those warm and fuzzies and butterflies, then fast-forward two months to find out he’s a stalker or sucks in bed? Let’s give it some time, shall we?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor were football quarterbacks.

I’m still a believer, but rather just trying to be patient (for once). Even NBA star Kevin Durant is a believer, tweeting the following Monday night:

And I hate to bring Johnny Football into this, but it’s really him that we have to thank for setting the tone and  adding freshman to any and every “watch list,” but from what we can tell, Winston seems to have a seemingly positive and focused head underneath that speared helmet. I mean look at all this judgment (thankfully praise), but imagine if you and I had been judged on our first time at something? Oh, awkward. Embarrassing.

Another Seminoles TD

Another Seminoles TD

What’s more impressive for the freshman, as the ESPN article states is that he’s not only Billy Badass in a helmet and pads, he’s also a star outfielder. A star in the sense that he turned down a 15th round pick in the Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers to pursue not only his love for the game, but his God-given abilities on the football field.

Winston is just one of a handful of players to have not only participated, but excelled as a two-sport dominator, including Hall of Famer Primetime Deion Sanders. You better believe Deion will have some words of wisdom for Jameis on October 25th where he’s schedule to appear at Bobby Bowden’s roast.

To say Winston looked comfortable in the Steelers house would most certainly be an understatement. It’s kind of like saying Stephen A. is a name-dropper.

I know the haters (both mine and FSU’s) are going to counter saying that of course it was an impressive game against an unimpressive defense, but the Panthers coverage isn’t that dismal. They returned eight defensive starters from last season’s team. The same team that ranked 17th in the nation. It may not be a Ray Lewis kind of defense, but it’s definitely not the worst in the conference.

One of the best things I’ve read since the breakout debut was David M. Hale’s lengthy ESPN article, where Jameis’ father baited him (as a child) asking who the best quarterback was, hoping he would say himself, but instead answered, “Randall Cunningham.” I knew I had a connection watching Winston carry on like a beast on the field, but learning of our shared love for Randall Cunningham pretty much sealed the deal.

Jameis and I agree: Randall Cunningham is THE best

Jameis and I agree: Randall Cunningham is THE best

Another fun fact about Monday night’s game: Jameis Winston is just 1 of 8 players to complete at least 25 passes and have a completion percentage above 85% ON a BCS team playing AGAINST a BCS team in the last decade. If you bump that up to 90%, it’s only Winston and Colt McCoy (Texas) sitting side by side on that list. (via ESPN Stats & Information)

Plain and simple: We’re not all good our first time. But this Jameis Winston kid is.