The Garnet squad defeated their Gold counterparts 31-14 in Florida State’s annual spring game, just completed.
The first drive Jameis Winston ever led for Florida State was capped by a long-TD pass on his first attempt. The last drive he led was in Pasadena, California, and it ended in an iconic touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin that clinched a national championship. This season’s beginning was much more inauspicious.
The Heisman-trophy winning quarterback got off to a rough start, piloting the first-team offense to a punt, pick, punt, fumble start against the Seminoles’ top defenders. Winston was all over the place: in just the first two series, he missed receivers short, long, and wide, while throwing into double and even triple coverage (a play resulting in a Jalen Ramsey interception). He also fumbled with the Garnet looking to score, and routinely was late with his deliveries.
Winston was simply rusty early– not a shock, given the layoff from live play. He looked better as the game progressed, but struggled with consistency. But credit certainly has to be given to the defensive starters he faced.
The starting cornerbacks are quite possibly the best in the country– and Ronald Darby and Nate Andrews didn’t even play. Terrance Smith continued his steady, ball-hawking play, and redshirt freshman Matthew Thomas looks like a star in the making, as he demonstrated why head coach Jimbo Fisher described him as a player perpetually on the bottom of the pile. It’s a bit of an ironic twist, considering that, about this time last year, Thomas was seeking a release from his commitment to Florida State to attend USC.
Another hinderance Winston faced was the absence of the top four ‘Nole running backs, as Karlos Williams, Mario Pender, Ryan Green, and Dalvin Cook all sat this one out. Freddie Stevenson did acquit himself well, however. He showed patience, power, and impressive shiftiness running against the top defense.
The receivers are going to need more time. 6-4 Isaiah Jones stood out for the ‘Noles, turning upfield quickly and shedding numerous tackles. Rashad Greene is still on the mend and in a no-contact jersey. The Seminoles also found Kermit Whitfield in space for positive plays. Christian Green continued to struggle hauling in very catchable balls.
Regarding the reserves, Sean Maguire quickly addressed any wondering if there were a competition for the QB2 spot, hitting Rashad Gholston twice, including a 27-yard touchdown pass down the seam, on his impressive first drive. He looked in-command and decisive on the day, delivering passes with uncanny accuracy. Not to be outdone, No. 3 QB John Franklin showed off his absolute cannon of an arm, featuring a lightning-fast release, and some nice escapability.
Backup linebacker E.J. Levenberry showed Thomas-like dominance as well, as he led both squads in tackles. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that FSU looked to escape the contest without any major injuries. The ‘Noles now face a dead period of sorts, prior to summer practice commencing.