Even if Florida State’s offense had never taken the field Saturday, the Seminoles still would have cruised to an easy win. And in truth, the offense really didn’t see much of the field anyway. But as the Seminoles continue to dominate overmatched ACC opposition, there were a few key takeaways from Saturday’s 59-3 victory over Wake Forest.
The defense has a lot of depth: Most weeks, if a team’s two senior starting safeties were out and two true freshmen were forced to step in, it would be a problem. For Florida State on Saturday, it was a revelation. Jalen Ramsey has been exceptional all season in place of injured Tyler Hunter, and he added to his resume against Wake Forest by scooping up a fumble and returning it for a touchdown. Nate Andrews, making his first start in place of Terrence Brooks (concussion), was even better. He picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and forced the fumble Ramsey recovered. The two freshmen had more first-half takeaways (3) than Wake Forest had completions (2). Freshman Marquez White added another interception. FSU finished with seven takeaways in the game.
Winston not finishing strong: Perhaps it’s nitpicking after a 59-3 blowout, but Jameis Winston wasn’t exactly sharp. It was similar to his game against NC State: Winston looked good enough on early drives but struggled to maintain the same focus after Florida State built a big lead. For the third time this season, his last pass was an interception. Overall, Winston has thrown four picks in his last 58 attempts after throwing just three in his first 182 passes of the year. Again, it’s hardly any indication that Winston is slipping. It’s more about the pace of the game. FSU has built big leads, the defensive scores have limited offensive possessions and Winston has struggled to get into a groove. The problem, however, is that trend figures to continue in coming weeks, with FSU expected to be a heavy favorite in each of its three remaining regular-season games.
The mindset hasn’t changed: Yes, the Seminoles crowded into hotel rooms Thursday night to watch the end of Oregon’s loss to Stanford. Yes, they were excited about the outcome. Yes, they’re enjoying their place in the driver’s seat for a trip to the BCS title game. But no, nothing’s changed other than the standings. If anything, the strong start and dominant victory over Wake Forest underscored how focused Florida State is on its own agenda, rather than worrying about what might await at season’s end. On a chilly afternoon before a sparse crowd with little expectation of anything other than an easy win, Florida State did what it was supposed to do. That might not seem like much, but when evaluating the maturity of this FSU team against the program’s recent history, it’s an enormous test to pass.