A number one ranked team and defending national champions that haven’t lost a game in almost two years, but Florida State found it quite difficult to beat Oklahoma State 37-31 in the Cowboys Classic, struggling to contain J.W. Walsh for most of the night, and getting a slightly worrying performance from Jameis Winston.
The 2013 Heisman winner had the ground set up for him after the Seminoles took a 17-0 lead in the middle of the second quarter after Mario Pender ran 11 yards for a touchdown, but J.W. Walsh, a Junior out of Denton, Texas, started showing off his arm and legs, finishing the game with 203 passing yards (one touchdown, one interception) and added 51 more on the ground, running for two more scores.
Oklahoma State managed to pull back to within six with 1:55 left in the game after another Walsh touchdown run, but that was it for the Cowboys, entering the season unranked but showing that at least on offense, they will once again be very difficult to stop, even if their passing game is slightly different to the heavy passing schemes we’re used to seeing from Mike Gundy and his teams.
Winston threw an interception in the red zone, the first of his college career, and finished with two picks overall. He targeted Rashad Greene most of the time, and Greene caught 11 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown. Losses at wide receiver and running back are hard to overcome in these numbers, and the Seminoles got only 106 yards out of their ground game, with Karlos Williams carrying the ball 23 times for just 66 yards, a 2.9 average.
Florida State haven’t lost a game since November 2012, and it actually felt weird for them to be in a close one. Last season, not one of their regular season opponents were within 3 points of the Seminoles in the second half. Against the Cowboys, also gaining 161 yards on the ground from 42 rushes, the Seminoles ran 18 plays while Oklahoma State were within 3 points of them. Florida State struggled on third downs, converting only 4-of-14 opportunities.
This is just the opening game, and not an easy one at that. Things get a bit easier with Citadel next week, then a bye and then the annual showdown with Clemson, who didn’t look very impressive in their season opener against Georgia. Still, Florida State need to find a way to overcome losing to much talent on offense, which might mean putting a heavier load in the running game on Winston, who didn’t seem too comfortable with the new situation in the season opener.