Counting Down Jameis Winston’s 5 Best Games: No. 3


With the NFL Draft five days away and Jameis Winston the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in mock drafts from just about all the reputable sources, I will be counting down Winston’s five best games as a Seminole leading up to next Thursday when it seems likely that he will make history as the first No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in Florida State history. You can find No. 5 here and No. 4 here.

When deciding the order for the top three games on this list, it all ended up coming down to how important the game was to Florida State’s season. For this reason alone, the following game came in at No. 3 despite it being probably the best game statistically of Winston’s career. What makes that even more impressive is that it was the first game of his career. Coming in at No. 3, it is Winston’s debut against the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Coming out of a 2012 season that saw the Seminoles win the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl with E.J. Manuel as the starting quarterback and Winston in his redshirt season, everyone seemed sure that Winston, who had been a consensus five-star recruit out of Hueytown, Alabama, was the heir apparent for Florida State entering the 2013 season, especially after an impressive spring game performance. Despite the way it seemed to be leaning, Jimbo Fisher made no announcement on who would be starting for the ‘Noles until just 10 days before the FSU opener against Pitt.

After being named the starter in what was apparently a closer race between Winston and Jacob Coker than most thought it would be, he entered the season opener on the road at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh wanting to show that Fisher made the right choice by letting him lead the ‘Noles, who started the season as the No. 11 ranked team in the country. As we all know now, he accomplished that and then some, starting what is quite possibly the best season by a quarterback in FSU and freshman history.

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Winston first touched the ball with the Seminoles trailing 7-0 after the Panthers got the ball first and went 80 yards on 9 plays for the touchdown. On the first drive, Florida State was forced to punt after a pair of first-down completions by Winston. After the slow start, FSU exploded offensively as that was the only defensive stop in the first three quarters for the Pitt defense.

The second drive for Florida State only lasted for two plays. After an interception by Jalen Ramsey, Winston found Nick O’Leary for a 24-yard touchdown pass with a blitzing lineman coming right at him from the right side.

It was a red-hot start to Winston’s career as he did not throw an incompletion in the first 20 minutes of the game, starting out 11-11 before Kenny Shaw was unable to get a foot down inbounds on Winston’s 12th pass. At half-time, Winston was 16-17 with 4 touchdowns, 3 passing and 1 rushing, and he had helped open up a 28-10 lead through 2 quarters.

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One might have thought that Winston would cool off in the second half after such an unbelievable first half but that person would be quite incorrect. Winston picked up right where he left off, going 9-10 in the second half with an additional passing touchdown before being removed from the game after the first possession of the fourth quarter with the Seminoles leading 41-13, which ended up being the final score.

After the game, Winston was asked what he could have done better in his debut and after thinking for a moment, he answered:

"“I got sacked. I don’t like getting sacked.”"

The truth of Winston’s situation was that the sacks, which were not entirely his fault with some of the blame placed on the offensive line, were one of the few aspects that did not go perfectly for Winston in his debut. For the game, he went 25-27 for 356 yards with 5 total touchdowns, 4 passing and 1 rushing. Completing 25 of 27 passes equated to a completion percentage of 92.6%, a FSU single game record.

After the extraordinary debut performance, the hype around Winston quickly grew and he continued to live up to it, breaking records and winning games at a frenetic pace. Despite the excitement that surrounded FSU after the 2013 season opener, I am not sure that any fans knew just how much Winston would do for the Seminoles, winning the first 26 games of his career and bringing Florida State its third Heisman and third national championship.

With two games left on the countdown, draft day is quickly approaching. Check back tomorrow to see which game comes in at No. 2.