Revamped FSU D overshadowed, but impressive vs. Pitt

Published Sep. 3, 2013 4:27 p.m. ET

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jeremy Pruitt's defense may have been the second most anticipated debut for Florida State on Monday night.

The first five minutes weren't pretty.

The next 55 minutes? Pruitt's defense was exceptional.

Pittsburgh opened the game with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that energized an already excited crowd at Heinz Field. Just four minutes and 10 seconds into the season, Florida State was already down.

"They hit us right in the mouth right off the bat," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Very proud of the way the guys responded."

Florida State's defense responded with a sense of urgency. The Seminoles forced an interception on the next drive and then a three-and-out that helped Florida State pull away from Pittsburgh 41-13 on Monday night.

For a defense that had a new coordinator, two new position coaches and seven first-time starters, Fisher was pleased to see the defense make adjustments on the fly.

"Very good, solid performance for the opening game for the defense, especially with a new staff," Fisher said.

Jameis Winston stole the show with his five-touchdown, two incompletion game. So it's natural that lost in the shuffle of a breakout performance was the defense's play.

Florida State's defense came through with a pair of first-half interceptions that deflated Pittsburgh. The first, aided by a blitz up the middle by linebacker Telvin Smith, led to an interception by true freshman Jalen Ramsey. And the second, with the Panthers trying to get back into the game and trailing 21-10, was a second-quarter interception by Terrence Brooks.

The Seminoles had just 11 interceptions in 2012 but had two in the first 30 minutes on Monday.

"It was huge," Fisher said. "We were able to capitalize."

Florida State turned the interceptions into quick touchdowns and the Seminoles were ahead 28-10 at the half.

Take away the 80 yards from Pitt's opening drive, and Florida State allowed just 217 yards in the final 55 minutes and 50 seconds of the game.

The Seminoles gave up a few big plays on the ground but still finished by holding the Panthers to 96 yards. And Florida State put pressure on Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, who completed 15 of 28 passes for 201 yards and the game-opening touchdown. But Savage was also sacked three times — twice by Lamarcus Joyner — and threw two interceptions.
"We did a great job of mixing looks up for the quarterback, bringing different pressures," Fisher said. "We got to him and affected him."

Florida State suffered a few injuries in the game but it's not yet clear if players will miss games.

Tailback James Wilder suffered a shoulder injury in the second half.
And guard Tre' Jackson suffered what Fisher thought was an ankle injury, prompting backup Ruben Carter to see his first significant playing time as a Seminole.

"He stepped in and didn't miss a beat," Fisher said.