Nov. 16, 2013
By: @BrandonMellor, Seminoles.com Managing Editor
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Were there two national championship teams inside Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday?
That's obviously still to be determined but on a day when Florida State honored its 1993 title team in a pre-game ceremony, this 2013 edition of the Seminoles continued its dominant march toward a potential trip to Pasadena in a 59-3 shut-down of Syracuse (5-5, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).
"That's one of the best football teams I've seen in my 23 years coaching," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. "They are big, they are fast, they are talented and they know what they're doing."
No. 2 FSU was relentless in securing its 10th victory of the season and moving to 8-0 in the ACC for the first time since 2000. The Seminoles raced to a 28-0 first quarter lead, didn't face a third-down situation until 5:28 left in the second quarter and held the Orange to just 3.2 yards per play.
Heisman Trophy contender Jameis Winston needed just two quarters of play to complete 19 of his 21 passes for 277 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers while `Noles great Charlie Ward, who knows a thing or two about post-season hardware, watched from the sideline.
"I thought Jameis played exceptionally well," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He made good decisions, got the ball where he had to get it to to guys coming in and out of the right runs and checks. I thought he played a very efficient game today."
Sean Maguire, who stepped into the role of No. 2 quarterback this week in the wake of Jacob Coker's season-ending knee injury, played the entire second half -- the most on-field action of his career -- and kept the offensive freight-train moving.
Maguire finished 3-of-5 for 21 yards with his first career touchdown pass and in the process Florida State became the first team in ACC history to score at least 40 points in 10 consecutive games.
James Wilder, Jr. was responsible for 12 of those points, scoring on touchdown runs of three yards (first quarter) and a career-long 37 yards (third quarter). True freshman speedster Levonte Whitfield also added a 74-yard first-quarter touchdown dash in which a downfield diving block by Winston helped spring the rookie for the stretch run to the endzone.
The Seminoles also got rushing scores from Devonta Freeman (four yards in the first quarter) and Kelvin Benjamin and Rashad Greene also added touchdown catches. Nick O'Leary caught a 19-yard scoring pass from Maguire to set the FSU school record for career touchdowns by a tight end with 11 and counting.
"Sean made a beautiful throw," Fisher said about record-breaking scoring toss to O'Leary. "You can see some of Sean's talent. Sean has arm talent, he just needs reps."
Karlos Williams led the way on the ground with 78 yards on just four carries for a 19.5 yards-per-carry average and Kenny Shaw caught seven passes for a game-high 99 yards. In total, the Seminoles racked up 523 yards -- 298 through the air and 225 on the ground -- despite a 41:42 to 18:18 time-of-possession edge in favor of Syracuse.
"The balance is what defines this offense," Wilder, Jr. said. "Jameis Winston throwing the ball it makes it easy for the `backs and the running game. We've got great receivers and gas them in the passing game. It's a great balance between the two and that's the difference."
As has been the case nearly almost all season, FSU's defense was just as stellar as its offense.
The `Noles forced two turnovers -- its fifth consecutive game with more than one takeaway -- when Chris Casher stripped Syracuse backup quarterback Drew Allen and scooped and scored from 31 yards out and then Dan Hicks intercepted a pass on the next Orange drive.
FSU now has 18 turnovers in its last five games -- a total that is more than many teams have generated over the course of the entire season.
"It just gives you something to really want to go out and work for every day, day in and day out," FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said about creating turnovers. "There's nothing better than working hard and seeing results."
Syracuse was averaging more than 200 yards rushing per game but the `Noles stymied that attack, limiting the visitors to 143 yards on the ground (139 of which occurred in the final two quarters against the second- and third-team FSU defense). The Orange finished with just 247 yards.
The Seminoles have now outscored their opponents 527-111 this season.
Sophomore Reggie Northrup picked up a game-high 11 tackles while E.J. Levenberry, Lamarcus Brutus, Nate Andrews and Jernigan each had six stops. Dan Hicks added five tackles to his interception and Terrance Smith had five tackles, too.
Star defensive back Lamarcus Joyner added to his team-high sacks total with two more in the victory.
Roberto Aguayo posted a career-long 53-yard field goal to cap off the `Noles' complete domination.
"I thought offense, defense and special teams were able to execute," Fisher said. "They played well and they impacted the game in all three phases. That was critical."
The 'Noles now return to Doak Campbell Stadium for the home finale against Idaho Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, click here or call 1-888-FSU-NOLE.