Oct. 26, 2013
By: @BrandonMellor, Seminoles.com Managing Editor
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Bobby Bowden planted Osceola's spear and then major college football's all-time winningest coach watched his former team bury NC State, 49-17, Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.
In a performance reminiscent of Florida State football's glory years when Bowden's teams were the baddest in the land, steamrolling lesser opponents and competing for national championships, Jimbo Fisher's No. 2 'Noles dropped 35 points on the Wolfpack (3-4, 0-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) in the first quarter before moving to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the ACC.
"The emotions of coming off a big win at Clemson, I was very proud that we are learning to handle that better," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I thought we prepared well all week."
The last time FSU started a season 7-0 was 1999 and the Bowden-led 'Noles would eventually win the national title.
If this year's Seminoles hope to turn the same perfect start to a season into a championship crown at year's end, sustaining its October dominance is key.
Saturday, the Seminoles' first-team defense only played in the first half and star quarterback Jameis Winston and the first-team offense only played the first series of the second half and NC State scored all 17 of its points against the 'Noles' second and third string players. Not counting the points that FSU's backups allowed, the Seminoles dismantled Maryland, Clemson and NC State by a combined score of 156-14 in 10 consecutive quarters.
Next up for the `Noles on the championship quest? No. 7 Miami at home next weekend with ESPN College Gameday set to broadcast live from outside of Doak Campbell Stadium.
"After coming off a big win, the main thing is you've got to keep that same kind of focus," FSU senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner said. "Just keeping that focus is critical and I was proud of how we did that. We weren't looking ahead and we weren't looking back."
Winston's numbers weren't as eye-popping as they were a week ago at Clemson, but the Heisman Trophy candidate did add three more touchdown tosses to his 2013 totals in the win. The rookie now has 23 scoring throws seven games, matching first-round NFL draft selection EJ Manuel's 2012 season total. Winston finished the day 16-of-26 for 292 yards, the trio of scores and one interception that bounced off Kelvin Benjamin's hands on the final first-team offensive drive.
Rashad Greene was Winston's favorite target, hauling in eight catches for 137 yards and one touchdown. Benjamin added four catches for 89 yards and a score and Nick O'Leary also found the endzone. Devonta Freeman ran 12 times for 96 yards with two touchdowns and Karlos Williams had 13 runs for 86 yards and Levonte Whitfield took a reverse 31 yards for late fourth-quarter score.
FSU racked up 550 yards of total offense and tied the school record for most points scored in a single quarter with 35 in the game's opening frame.
"These last two weeks we have just started off fast," Winston said. "If you get early turnovers and you get good field position, that's what happens when you have an offense like ours."
Just as they did against the Tigers, the 'Noles forced a turnover on the game's first drive when Terrence Brooks hauled in a diving interception off NC State quarterback Brandon Mitchell. Brooks later added a forced fumble. Ronald Darby also added an interception.
FSU's top four tacklers were all linebackers with true freshman E.J. Levenberry posting a team-best eight stops. Reggie Northrup and Telvin Smith each had six tackles and Terrance Smith had five tackles and a sack. Christian Jones also had a sack while matching DeMarcus Walker, Jacobbi McDaniel, Joyner, Marquez White and Nate Andrews with four tackles.
The Seminoles' defense didn't allow NC State to cross midfield until early in the second quarter and the first team defense allowed just 80 first half yards. NC State finished the game with 316 total yards as Mitchell finished 17-of-33 for 128 yards.
"I feel like our coaches harped on the most in this game was not settling," Brooks said. "Don't look at the scoreboard, just go out there and play every play."
The 'Noles' focus obviously now switches to a surprising Hurricanes team that earned a come-from-behind win over Wake Forest Saturday -- the third consecutive game in which 7-0 Miami had to battle back from a double-digit deficit.
Kick-off for 'Noles versus 'Canes is set for 8 p.m. live nationally on ABC.
"[Miami] is a heck of a football team and we have to be ready to play," Fisher said. "It's just like the old days."