TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins called the matchup with Florida State a “heavyweight fight.”
The battle of the bands was more worthy of top billing.
The matchup on the field, even in a year of Football Championship Series programs upsetting Football Bowl Subdivision powers, saw Bethune deliver a few jabs before Florida State threw the knockout punch.
In the end, it was a rout. Florida State ran for 266 yards and Jameis Winston tossed two touchdown passes — overcoming at least five drops from his receivers — as the Seminoles ripped Bethune 54-6 on Saturday night.
Florida State scored 54 points but lacked focus early on offense. There were drops, James Wilder Jr. had a fumble on Bethune’s goal line and Kelvin Benjamin gave up on a route that nearly ended with a Wildcats interception.
But Florida State completed its third rout to open the season. The Seminoles have outscored Pittsburgh, Nevada and Bethune a combined 157-26.
Here are five observations from the Seminoles’ win:
1. Florida State’s running game is cruising right along.
The Seminoles ran for 266 yards on 36 carries, an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Even against Bethune, that’s an impressive number.
Devonta Freeman had his second straight 100-yard game, running for 112 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Wilder Jr. had a fumble on the goal line but still finished with 56 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. And Karlos Williams, in his second game as a tailback after moving over from safety, ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
“We did hit big plays,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We ran the football well. Freeman, Karlos and Wilder can hit the ball out of the park.”
The Seminoles now have 799 rushing yards in three games.
2. Winston isn’t rattled when his receivers struggle.
Florida State receivers didn’t have a drop in the first two games as Winston tossed just five incompletions. On Saturday against Bethune, the receivers dropped at least five passes.
But Winston didn’t get rattled by that, and he kept on trusting that his receivers would make plays. And they did.
Winston completed 10 of 19 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. It was far from the accurate performances he had against Pitt and Nevada, and it was hampered by a high number of drops. But Winston also provided the game’s biggest highlight in the second quarter.
The redshirt freshman dropped back, eluded two defenders, including one that had an arm on him, rolled left and, while falling down, found former Glades Central standout Kelvin Benjamin for an 11-yard touchdown.
“My first touchdown was going to be a negative in the film room,” Winston said. “I was supposed to hot (read) the backside (receiver). My mind was racing. … I wasn’t even thinking about that hot. God blessed me with the talent, I shook him off. And then Kelvin was right there. Kelvin made a great play.”
In his first three college games, Winston has completed 50 of 64 passes (78.1 percent) for 718 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception.
3. Florida State’s backups are very effective.
Williams now has three touchdowns in two games, and he’s the Seminoles’ No. 3 tailback.
Quarterback Jacob Coker entered the game in the third quarter and led Florida State on two drives that resulted in touchdowns.
And 13 players had three or more tackles on Saturday. The three leading tacklers were underclassmen: sophomore linebacker Terrance Smith (12), who was making his first start, freshman reserve defensive end Chris Casher (10) and freshman linebacker Ukeme Eligwe (six).
4. Without two starters, the defense was strong.
Senior linebacker Telvin Smith set the tone early, when he broke in front of a pass by Bethune’s Jackie Wilson and race 68 yards for a touchdown.
Terrance Smith had just nine tackles in 2012, but he made his first start on Saturday (in place of Christian Jones) and had 12 tackles and a sack.
“My whole goal was to make the best of the opportunity,” said Smith, a sophomore. “It was very exciting to go out and compete and succeed.”
And Casher had 10 tackles in his first significant playing time.
5. The kicking game is perfect.
Roberto Aguayo hasn’t missed a kick yet. He had a career-long 45-yard field goal in the first quarter and made 7 of 7 extra-point attempts.
For the season, Aguayo has made 5 of 5 field-goal attempts and 20 of 20 extra-point attempts.