TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For three hours and 11 minutes, Jameis Winston was able to focus on football.
He was locked in, completing his first 11 passes.
He was accurate, finishing 19 of 21 for 277 yards and two touchdowns. By halftime.
He ran 35 yards down the field, diving to block Syracuse defensive back Julian Whigham to spring Kermit Whitfield for a 74-yard touchdown.
Playing just days after he was linked to an alleged sexual assault from a December 2012 case, Winston was composed and confident on Saturday afternoon as he led No. 2 Florida State to a 59-3 win over Syracuse.
“I thought Jameis played exceptionally well,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “His mind was really in the game.”
Florida State got the ball first, and when Winston’s name was announced, the crowd of 74,491 at Doak Campbell Stadium cheered. Winston guided the Seminoles to a six-play, 77-yard drive that finished with a James Wilder Jr. 3-yard touchdown run.
The Seminoles (10-0, 8-0 ACC) had a touchdown on their first five possessions and added a field goal on the sixth. By halftime, Florida State was ahead 38-0.
“When you have great veterans around you, and you have people that you trust, you want to go out there on that battlefield and play your heart out,” Winston said.
He did that on Saturday, turning in what was his most efficient effort since he completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards in a season-opening win at Pittsburgh.
This wasn’t a gaudy, stat-filled, 300-yard performance. If Fisher wanted to, Winston could have played a few more third-quarter drives to build up the stats. But that simply wasn’t needed.
Winston showed the ability to block out the distractions of the past few days and delivered drive after drive. He spread the ball around to his receivers and read the defense well.
Florida State scored 40 points for the 10th straight game this season, extending the school record.
“Once our offense gets in that groove, it’s hard to slow us down,” Winston said.
Winston’s day was done at halftime, and he smiled from the sideline as backup quarterback Sean Maguire threw a touchdown pass. And he ran out on to the field to celebrate with the defense after Chris Casher returned a fumble for a touchdown.
On Saturday, Florida State honored the 1993 team, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Seminoles’ first national championship. It wasn’t lost on Winston what that 1993 team did and the parallels to what the 2013 team is trying to accomplish.
Up next is Idaho and then a road trip to The Swamp to play Florida, followed by the ACC championship game. Florida State is playing it one week at a time, but at some point they must realize that they are also three wins from playing for a national championship.
“We want to be elite, we want to be great,” Winston said. “Just like when we had the ’93 championship team, we want to be just like those guys. We want to keep everything rolling.”
There is no way to know where the Tallahassee Police Department investigation into Winston will go. Few know what was behind the redacted portions of a police report from Dec. 7, 2012. Or if or when charges will be brought against Winston.
The future is cloudy. But for a little more than three hours on Saturday, Winston was able to focus on football and guide Florida State to a win.