In first test, FSU defense helps cause with turnovers

Published Sep. 2, 2013 11:55 p.m. EDT

Jameis Winston will surely garner most of the attention after Monday night's win over Pittsburgh.

But don't forget about the Florida State defense. And in particular the turnovers, which were key in helping the No. 11 Seminoles pull away in the first half and take a 41-13 victory.

In 2012, the Seminoles had 11 interceptions and 10 fumbles recovered. For a defense that was No. 2 in the nation, those numbers should have been higher, coaches and players said.

Monday night was a good indication that 2013 could be different. The Seminoles had two interceptions in the first half, and it helped swing the momentum away from Pitt.

Jalen Ramsey's first-quarter interception halted Pittsburgh's momentum and set up a touchdown just two plays later. Terrence Brooks' interception set up another touchdown three plays later (and Brooks could have had another in the end zone, but Pitt had to settle for a field goal).

Those two stops helped Florida State to a 28-10 halftime lead, and the Seminoles were able to roll from there.

Besides the increase in turnovers, here are four other things we learned Monday night:

1.) FSU's defense is still a work in progress. Pitt quarterback Tom Savage and the running game shredded Florida State early. The Panthers exposed some weaknesses in the Seminoles, but new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt made adjustments.

But after that 80-yard opening drive by Pitt, the Panthers managed just two field goals the rest of the way. And just 217 yards in the final 55 minutes of the game.

Replacing seven starters -- all of them in the NFL -- was bound to be rocky at times. Florida State passed the first test on Monday, allowing just 297 total yards.

2.) This offense is dynamic. Florida State put up more than 500 yards on offense on Monday night. With a redshirt freshman at quarterback.

Sure, the Seminoles did it five times in 2012. But that was with a senior quarterback in EJ Manuel, who was a first-round pick. And a deeper receiving corps that wasn't depleted, as the was 2013 group this offseason.

3.) Nick O'Leary will be a bigger part of the offense. O'Leary caught three touchdown passes in 13 games in 2012. He had three touchdown grabs on Monday night.

With Florida State's depth thin at receiver, Winston will need more targets than just Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin. And O'Leary is a capable threat, someone that's able to find openings in an opponent's defense.

On Monday, O'Leary caught four passes for 47 yards. It could be a sign of things to come in 2013.

4.) Aguayo is off to a good start. One of the most scrutinized positions as Florida State -- beyond quarterback -- is kicker. And it can't be easy replacing Dustin Hopkins, the ACC's all-time leading scorer.

But redshirt freshman kicker Roberto Aguayo was solid in his first game. He made a 22-yarder and a 28-yarder. He should make those, of course. But these are confidence-building kicks for the long haul -- both in 2013 and beyond.