FSU throttles Maryland as attention turns to Clemson

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — No. 25 Maryland was supposed to challenge Florida State.

To push the Seminoles on offense and defense, to see what the team was made of — and if No. 8 Florida State was a legitimate contender in both the ACC and on the national stage.

Instead, Florida State pushed around Maryland. In every phase of the game. And it wasn’t even close.

Jameis Winston threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns, both career-highs for the redshirt freshman, as Florida State scored touchdowns on eight straight drives Saturday en route to a 63-0 win over Maryland.

He shredded a Terrapins defense that had allowed just 41 points in four games. Florida State put up 42 in less than three quarters on Saturday.

And the defense was equally, and perhaps more, impressive in securing a “0” on the scoreboard. Shutouts are rare in football, especially over a top-25 program. Florida State now has its first shutout over a top-25 team since Georgia Tech in 1997.

“We played a couple of opponents that we should have shut out and we didn’t get it done,” Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith said. “But to get the first goose egg feels good.”

Florida State can enjoy this one, especially after being ripped by Boston College a week ago. Florida State gave up 34 points, still winning 48-34, but a performance like that leaves you open to questions.

Is this Florida State defense as good as in previous years?

Was Florida State really able to just plug in seven defensive starters and still keep on cruise control?

Is there something wrong with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s schemes?

After a week of questions, Florida State responded with a resounding victory and a dominating defensive performance.

Maryland couldn’t run, managing just 33 yards on 25 carries. Terrapins quarterback C.J. Brown was knocked out of the game in the second quarter, and backup Caleb Rowe didn’t manage to do much after Brown left the game. Star receiver Stefon Diggs was even held to just two catches.

“They’ve got very explosive skill guys and I thought our guys covered well, we rushed well, we covered the quarterback,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Defense played outstanding from start to finish.”

Florida State is 5-0 after what has been a mostly dominating stretch of football. There were some tense moments a week ago at Boston College, but Florida State has delivered four routs — and five performances in which the offense has put up 40 or more points.

Winston has been nothing short of spectacular, despite coach Jimbo Fisher’s attempts to say Winston is “still a work in progress” and downplay the Heisman-level talk.

As a redshirt freshman, Winston may be a work in progress but the progress through five games is adding up to some Heisman-esque numbers: Winston has completed 90 of 122 passes for 1,441 yards and 17 touchdowns. In just five games.

The Heisman chatter will continue to build, especially when compared to this: Florida State’s other two Heisman winners, Charlie Ward (1993) and Chris Weinke (2000), both had just 12 passing touchdowns through five games.

And now Florida State has plenty of mojo going into a bye week that will be completely focused on Clemson from the start. The Tigers will likely be unbeaten, unless they trip up at home against Boston College next Saturday.

But it’s likely setting up to be one of the best college football games of the season, one that could go a long way toward deciding not just which team is the best in the ACC Atlantic but which team could also still be standing as a national-title contender.

“I’m really looking forward to playing Clemson,” Winston said. “They have a great team and we’re going to Death Valley. It’s a great environment. It should be fun.”

Contact Bob Ferrante at bobferrante17@gmail.com

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