On the field, it was business as usual for Jameis Winston and No. 2 Florida State.
The Heisman Trophy candidate showed no effects from a tumultuous week, completing 19-of-21 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns as the Seminoles rolled Syracuse 59-3 on Saturday.
News broke Wednesday that Winston was under investigation for an alleged sexual assault that took place Dec. 7, 2012. Attention moved away from his Heisman Trophy campaign to the many unanswered questions surrounding an investigation that is nearly a year old.
Any questions about whether the off-field issue would impact Florida State’s game were answered immediately. Florida State (10-0, 8-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) led 28-0 in the first quarter. Syracuse (5-5, 3-3) was held scoreless until late in the fourth quarter.
Florida State outgained the Orange 523-427.
"It’s the same thing every single week," Winston said. "We prepare ourselves the same way every single week. One thing about Florida State, we’re a big family. So we stay inside the family.
"We’ve got the same plan every week. We want to be elite. We want to be great. And just like we had the 1993 championship team come down. We want to be just like those guys. We want to just keep everything rolling the right way."
The Seminoles are second in the BCS standings and are likely three victories away — they play Idaho, Florida and the ACC championship game in the next three weeks — from locking up a spot in the BCS championship game.
It seems only a problem with Winston can get in Florida State’s way. If he were to be changed with a felony, school rules would require he not be allowed to play.
With him, and considering the upcoming competition, the Seminoles have been unstoppable.
The Seminoles scored 28 points before the Orange recorded 28 yards of total offense — and Winston was the star. The quarterback completed his first 11 attempts and looked completely comfortable. Winston controlled the game with his arm, but also sprinted nearly 40 yards downfield to throw the final block that sprung Kermit Whitfield on a 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
"I thought he played exceptionally well," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said about Winston. "His mind was really in the game."
Florida State was up 21-0 when Winston threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene with 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Syracuse cornerback Julian Whigham was injured on the play, taken off the field on a stretcher and immediately loaded into an ambulance late in the first quarter. He was taken to the hospital.
Orange coach Scott Shafer said Whigham was OK in the hospital with an abdominal injury and would remain overnight. Syracuse also lost running back Prince-Tyson Gulley to a lower-body injury and receiver Jarrod West left with an upper-body injury.
Winston lobbed a 6-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-5 receiver Kelvin Benjamin to go up 35-0 with 11:52 left in the second quarter. Winston’s game ended at halftime and Florida State holding a 38-0 lead.
Syracuse clearly made the decision to defend the deep ball and worry less about underneath routes. Winston took the easy, open throws and didn’t force the ball into tight spots.
Sean Maguire replaced Winston with second-stringer Jacob Coker out for the season after having knee surgery this week. The redshirt freshman was 3-of-5 for 21 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The Florida State defense continued to dominate and showed why it’s the No. 4 scoring defense in the FBS. The unit allowed 68 yards on 30 plays in the first half while the Seminoles’ offense had 374 yards on 32 plays. The Orange managed just four first downs in the first half while punting five times.
"This is horrible," Shafer said. "I hate it. We won’t sleep for a couple of nights. I know I won’t. You hate losing. God, I hate losing but you bounce back and figure out how to teach the kids because that’s what we are. We’re teachers."
Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt completed 10-of-18 passes for 75 yards. Backup Drew Allen entered the game in the third quarter and completed 5-of-9 passes for 29 yards with an interception.
"They’re a great team," Hunt said. "We lost to a better team, basically. It would be more of a bruised ego if we lost to a team that we’re better than. But we lost to a better team – you accept it, you move on. We have two more games and we want to go 2-0."