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Game Preview: No. 10/9 FSU vs. Nevada

Sept. 13, 2013

STUDENT-ATHLETE STATS COMPARISON

#10/9 Florida State Seminoles (1-0)
Roster | Schedule | Stats | Game Notes
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Passing leader
Player Pct Avg/gm TD Int
Jameis Winston 92.6 356.0 4 0
Rushing leaders
Player Att Yds Avg/gm TD
James Wilder, Jr. 10 58 5.8 0
Devonta Freeman 9 52 5.8 0
Receiving leaders
Player Rec Yds Avg/gm TD
Rashad Greene 8 126 126.0 1
Kelvin Benjamin 5 73 73.0 0
Defensive leaders
Player Tkls Scks TFL INT
Lamarcus Joyner 9 2 2 0
Telvin Smith 8 0 2 0
 

Nevada (1-1)
Roster | Schedule | Stats | Game Notes
Head Coach: Brian Polian
Passing leader
Player Pct Avg/gm TD Int
Cody Fajardo 69.8 201.5 2 0
Rushing leaders
Player Att Yds Avg/gm TD
Kendall Brock 39 148 74.0 2
Cody Fajardo 30 142 71.0 3
Receiving leaders
Player Rec Yds Avg/gm TD
Richy Turner 12 183 91.5 1
Brandon Wimberly 10 101 50.5 1
Defensive leaders
Player Tkls Scks TFL INT
Jordan Dobrich 15 0 0 0
Evan Favors 11 1 1 0
Brandon Mellor Brandon Mellor
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Key Players: Offense

Florida State

5 Jameis Winston

Get used to seeing Winston's name in this space throughout the season. Not just because he's the quarterback and how well he plays determines in large part how FSU's offense plays, but because you never know what the redshirt freshman is going to do next.

After as good of a debut as any quarterback has ever had, Winston will take on a Nevada defense that has no doubt seen the clinic he put on at Pittsburgh about as many times as any 'Noles fan has rewatched and replayed it.

For Winston, it's all about continuing to make good decisions and avoid mental errors. He may have looked perfect against the Panthers without any critical mistakes but the Bessemer, Ala. native still had a few areas of his game to clean up during the bye week.

"It's going to be an exciting game," Winston said. "You never can look past anybody."

 
Nevada

13 Devin Combs

As the program that produced San Francisco 49ers star quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Nevada's offense is tailored to big, athletic quarterbacks and that is exactly what starter Cody Fajardo is at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. But will he play?

An All-Mountain West second-team selection last year, Fajardo was injured in the Wolf Pack's win against UC Davis last weekend and his sprained right knee has had him listed as "day to day" ever since.

Nevada coach Brian Polian has elected to make a game-time decision at quarterback and if Fajardo is held out, that would make way for backup Devin Combs to earn the second start of his career.

Combs played in five games a season ago and racked up four touchdowns, one interception and 177 total rushing yards. Combs replaced Fajardo last week in the third quarter when the game was well in hand.

Key Players: Defense

Florida State

20 Lamarcus Joyner

Against Nevada's patented Pistol offense, playing with discipline is especially critical -- particularly in the defensive secondary.

For Florida State senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, who plays all over the field on defense, avoiding the temptation to look into the backfield where a dual-threat quarterback in this system has mutliple options is important. The Wolf Pack's offense is one that can quickly change the scoreboard with the big play set up by play-action.

If the quarterback catches a defender biting on what looks like a potential run, there's the possibility of a big play waiting to happen down the field in the passing game.

For Joyner and the rest of the Seminoles' defensive backs, it's all about avoiding that fate and playing with strong eye discipline while also making tackles in the open field.

 
Nevada

49 Jordan Dobrich

Lost in the euphoria that was Winston's mesmerizing performance on Labor Day was the overall efficiency of the Florida State offense, especially the play-action game.

With Winston running the offensive show, FSU used the threat of its power-packed running game to get Pittsburgh defenders to bite on the rush and let the Seminoles' pass catchers get behind them into open field.

Nevada's Dobrich, who leads the team in total tackles from his linebacker position, can't afford to fall for the offensive tricks that the Panthers did in a blowout defeat.

If Dobrich and the rest of the Wolf Pack 'backers get lulled into steping forward in hopes of halting a run that isn't there, Winston will continue to pad his stats with wide-open throws to the likes of Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw, Rashad Greene and Christian Green.

Four Downs: Key questions for FSU vs. Nevada

1. How does Winston follow up his memorable debut?

What will Jameis Winston do next? Find out Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

It's going to be quite difficult for Winston to somehow reach the seemingly unreachable standard he has set for himself but that was exactly the same logic that surrounded the rookie entering the season opener early last week. After all the build up and all the hype, how could Winston possibly live up to the lofty expecations of him in his first career game?

Five total touchdowns, a school record for completion percentage and a blowout victory later, Winston had his answer. Now the question is, what does he do for an encore? 

By now it's pretty clear that Winston is at his best when the clock is on and the game is real.

"That's that gray area where you don't know how a guy is going to react until he gets out there and he's able to manage that situation and do the right thing," Fisher said. "Hopefully he'll continue to do that, but there may be a time or two where he doesn't. When you're a decision-maker, whatever it is, you're going to make mistakes. You can't make all the right decisions, all the time, every game, every day. It doesn't work that way."

Winston's cool, been-here-done-that demeanor bodes well for his ability to continue to produce at a high level within the FSU offense.

Whether he is executing the play exaactly how it was drawn up or making something out of nothing, it's pretty likely that we haven't yet seen the best of FSU's potential superstar under center -- despite all the hype and his growing celebrity.

"It's just been another week," Winston said. "Another week of preparation and focusing on Nevada and not really focusing on outside things that may bring clutter to the team."

1. How many carries will Karlos Williams get at running back?

Williams is big, fast and dangerous with the football in his hands.

If anybody has taken some of the spotlight away from Winston in the wake of his highlight-filled debut, it's been Williams. A two-year player a safety and kick returner, Williams brings incredible size and athleticism to the backfield where he has the opportunity to replicate some of the jaw-dropping plays he made on the offense side of the ball in high school.

While there is a learning curve with Williams having to delve into a brand ne playbook with brand new responsibilities, Fisher has been pelased with the development of the former five-star prospect.

"Running back is the easiest position to learn," Fisher said. "When I was at LSU, we won the national championship with two freshmen backs that never played a snap until the sixth game of the year. As far as protections and runs, he'll pick those up extremely quickly and he's done a great job in practice. [He's] learning very well. I've been extremely pleased with his ability to learn and process information and move on -- he's an intelligent young man. He's done a very nice job of that."

So how much will Williams play Saturday?

He's certainly not going to take carries away from starters Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. but that doesn't mean there isn't a good opportunity for him to get his feet wet in the backfield. With all the two-back sets that FSU utilizes offensively, Williams figures to get some valuable repetitions either by himself or alongside one of the 'Noles' other tailbacks.

"He's going to be a great guy at running back," said senior lineabacker Telvin Smith, who was charged with unlucky task of tackling the 6-foot-1, 223-pound Williams at practice this week. "He's got energy and he's got that motor to keep going and his legs don't stop moving. ... I know he's going to be a great commodity to the offense."

3. How will FSU perform defensively against Nevada's up-tempo attack?

Terrence Brooks and the FSU defense have been preparing for a much different opponent than the opener.

Three weeks into the college football season and Nevada's up-tempo, no-huddle offense is certainly alive and well. The Wolf Pack comes to Tallahassee with 177 combined offensive plays in its first two games, which is the fourth most in the entire country. The frantic pace creates issues for defenses because Nevada's opponents don't have enough time to substitute fresh players into the lineup as the offense moves down the field.

Pittsburgh boasted a more steady, deliberate pace than Nevada and the Seminoles had no difficulty slowing down the Panthers after an opening-drive touchdown. So after preparing for weeks for the opener, FSU's attention in the days after that game turned to being prepared for the rigors of dealing with the a no-huddle attack.

The key for FSU is getting stops on third down.

"Against a no-huddle team, that's the down," Fisher said. "You get a third down you get off the field, you can win some battles because it's hard for those no-huddle teams to get into a rhythm. Thid down is critical in any ball game, especially against a team like this."

Ideally, the 'Noles will not only acheive a mark in the win column but also a better idea of what this year's defense needs to improve upon for Clemson in a few weeks.

With a fast-paced, Tajh Boyd-led offense waiting for them in South Carolina, Florida State needs as much game film of itself as possible on file when it comes time for the team's collective attention to turn to that highly anticipated Oct. 19 showdown in Death Valley. 

4. Will Nick O'Leary once again be a featured part of the offense?

O'Leary was unstoppable against Pitt.

Florida State fans aren't used to seeing performances like the one O'Leary put on against Pittsburgh in the opener when he hauled in a school-record tying three touchdown passes. After all, the tight end has traditionally never been a huge part of FSU's offensive identity -- no matter how potent the 'Noles have ever been on that side of the ball.

But while O'Leary's career day at Heinz Field had a lot to do with the fact that Fisher's gameplan revolved around a specific weakness on the Panthers' defense that could be exploited, it stands to reason that O'Leary will continue to be a favorite target of Winston no matter what type of scheme the Seminoles are facing.

"I knew I was going to be a lot more part of the offense this year, being real good friends with Jameis," O'Leary said. "We had a good relationship all camp, getting the ball to me. And just getting the ball around, really. He's a game-time player."

O'Leary had just three combined touchdowns over the last two seasons before Labor Day and his numbers should continue to rise with Winston under center. O'Leary has the potential to be a superstar for the 'Noles and has carried with him expectations of changing the perception of the position at FSU since he arrived as a highly touted prospect.

And that's a challenge he isn't shying away from.

"I'm ready to be one of the best tight ends to ever come out of Florida State," O'Leary said.

FSU injury report

Doubtful for Nevada game
Out for Nevada game
Out for season

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