Florida State apparently needs to start slow in order to wake up and pour it on.
The trend continued again Saturday, as the Seminoles trailed 17-3 at Boston College in the second quarter.
Florida State’s defense put on a clinic — of how to not tackle. And Florida State’s offense managed just a field goal and punted twice in the first quarter.
For the third time in four games, Florida State trailed early in the game. And this time, the Seminoles were down 14 on the road.
But then everything changed. The defense forced Boston College to go three-and-out three times.
And Jameis Winston did what he has done all season: pick apart defenses with his arm and with his legs. He helped Florida State tie the game up at 17 and then saved his best play for the final one of the half.
With the ball on Florida State’s 45, Winston took the snap from the shotgun, dropped back, dodged two would-be sackers, stepped to his right and found Kenny Shaw down the right sideline, who went up over Boston College’s Spenser Rositano and hauled in the pass in tight coverage, falling into the end zone for a touchdown.
Hail Mary. Shades of Doug Flutie, indeed.
“I just had confidence in Kenny,” Winston said. “I have so many tremendous wide receivers to throw the ball to. I just knew we had score at the end of the first half.”
The No. 8 Seminoles are 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Here are five observations from Florida State’s 48-34 win over Boston College on Saturday afternoon.
1. Winston just keeps improving.
Winston understands how to read defenses far better than many freshmen quarterbacks. And after a rocky start in which he completed just two of his first six passes, he rebounded with a 330-yard, four-touchdown game.
Just four games into his college career, Winston has already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and has 12 touchdown passes. He’s completing 73 percent of his passes and has just two interceptions in 91 passes.
The Heisman talk this early is incredibly premature. But Winston, as a four-game starter, has shown as much poise as a fourth-year senior.
“It’s fun to watch him grow,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He continues to grow and he makes plays. … Big-time players make big-time plays.”
And Winston spread the ball around, finding Kelvin Benjamin (three catches, 103 yards), Shaw (four catches, 93 yards, one touchdown) and Rashad Greene (four catches, 90 yards, two touchdowns).
2. Florida State can beat teams so many different ways.
There will be talk of the desire for the Seminoles to have a 1,000-yard rusher until someone does it. But it’s not necessary to win games.
The Seminoles ran for 159 yards on 36 carries (Winston led the team with 67 rushing yards). But Chad Abram had a touchdown run, the seventh Florida State player to have a rushing score this season. In four games.
It was also the fourth straight game in which Florida State had 40 or more points.
3. Florida State adjusts on defense well.
After Boston College put up 17 points early, the defense came through with three-and-outs on the next three drives.
For nearly 30 minutes, the Seminoles played some of their best defense of the season. They kept Boston College out of the end zone, allowing just a second-quarter field goal and a third-quarter field goal. And then …
4. Florida State also looked suspect on defense.
Boston College showed Florida State that it can’t fall asleep late in games. The Eagles drove 79 yards late in the third quarter and 75 yards early in the fourth quarter for late touchdowns.
The game was almost out of reach, but that second drive trimmed the Seminoles’ lead to just 48-34 with 9:44 left. Those drives will frustrate defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and fans alike.
There were two interceptions, one of which was returned by P.J. Williams for a touchdown. But missed tackles in such a high quantity are also surprising.
It’s not a sign of a top-10 defense, which Florida State needs to be if it wants to stay in the national championship picture.
“We have to clean up a lot of mistakes,” Fisher said. “We have to get better. We have a long way to go.”
5. Florida State needs to stop taking opponents lightly.
The Seminoles won’t say it, but it’s becoming clear that they may prepare well for games and speak in a respectful way about the opponent. But on Saturdays, they take teams for granted.
There were the drops and missed tackles against Bethune-Cookman a week ago. And that’s somewhat excusable considering that Florida State is one of the nation’s best teams facing one of the top teams in the Football Championship Division. But on Saturday, on the road and playing a conference team, Florida State could have shown its dominance.
And instead, after an impressive performance by Winston & Co., there will be plenty of questions about the miscues on defense.