ARLINGTON, Texas — Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston had a Heisman-type play Saturday night in No. 1-ranked Florida State’s 37-31 victory over Oklahoma State at the Cowboys Classic.
He also had a lot of help on an imperfect night for Winston as the defending national champs narrowly avoided an upset to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The win allowed the Seminoles to escape defeat and avoid being the first preseason No. 1 team to lose their opener since Nebraska was beat by UCLA in 1972.
Winston threw for 370 yards and a touchdown and added a spectacular 28-yard scoring run but needed the aid of the FSU defense to overcome two interceptions and several errant throws.
Still it was Winston and the Seminoles who ran their winning streak to 17-consecutive games, matching the school record set in 1999-2000. While he wasn’t perfect, Winston still matched his career high for completions (25), set a new mark for attempts (40) and his rushing score was the longest of his brief career.
"We’ve got to get more hungry," Winston said. "There’s no reason to get upset. We needed a great game and Oklahoma State was outstanding out there. We had a couple of opportunities to put the game away and that just comes from the first game and we’ve got to get better. That’s an eye opener."
Winston was sharp early, hitting nine of his first 10 passes in the first quarter but failing to lead FSU to a touchdown as the ‘Noles led 10-0 because of a Nate Andrews interception return for a touchdown.
The Seminoles led 17-10 at halftime but they could have put the game away if Winston would have been sharp. He was intercepted at the OSU 6-yard line by Seth Jacobs early in the second quarter with the Seminoles threatening to take a 17-0 lead.
With the score 17-7 late in the quarter Winston, who as intercepted 10 times all last season, was picked again and that led to a field goal and some much-needed momentum for OSU. Winston said after the game the loss of momentum for the Seminoles fell squarely on him for his interceptions.
He found a way to atone in the second half.
The FSU lead was 20-17 midway through the third quarter. That’s when Winston unleashed the play of the game, cutting left four times on a quarterback draw from the OSU 28 and diving in for a score that put the Seminoles ahead 27-17 with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter. The play included a hurdle of offensive lineman Josue Matias and a dive between two Cowboys defenders.
The highlight-reel quality of the play was lost on Winston. He just knew his team needed something to go right.
"We just needed a play," Winston said. "We needed a big play. I had no choice but to put the ball in the end zone."
FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said on plays like that the real Winston shines through.
"He becomes a competitor," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "That’s the thing you love about him when you’re coaching. Even when he’s not playing his best or whatever goes on, there’s still a competitor in him. If I’ve got to run, if I’ve got to hit somebody, whatever I’ve got to do to get in the end zone and make plays for my team that’s what he does. That was a heck of a play."
From that point on it was a scoring exchange with Winston and the Seminoles answering each OSU score, with Winston’s 50-yard pass play to Greene with 3:48 remaining finally putting the game out of reach.
While the Seminoles did win, that might not have been the case if it weren’t for two Oklahoma State miscues on punts and a fourth-quarter fumble by OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh that was followed by the Winston-to-Greene touchdown two plays later.
Fisher knows his quarterback has room to improve after Game 1.
"Sometimes that’s what great players do and then he got his bearings back," Fisher said. "He lost feel for the game and then got it back. He played a pretty good second half. He forced two balls there but we’ll learn from it and get better."
"In the locker room (after the game) it was more of a celebratory kind of thing but we’ve got to get better," Winston said. "They (OSU) played their tails off so we’ve got to go higher."