I tried to do it all summer.
I told anyone who would listen that the hype they were hearing about this new Florida State quarterback would be too much for the kid, freshman Jameis Winston.
Don’t believe our No. 12 preseason ranking, I said. Don’t bet your mortgage on the Seminoles to cover a 10-point spread against a Pittsburgh team that would treat the season-opener like their Super Bowl, I said.
That wasn’t being a “hater,” that was trying to be reasonable. Turns out, I could have thrown reason under a bus where it belonged.
There was no reasonable explanation for what happened at Heinz Field on Monday night. You’ve probably heard about what occurred, or you saw it with your own eyes. Either way, you probably struggle to comprehend it all the same.
Winston threw two incompletions out of 27 attempts the entire night. One of them was forced by the defense, while the other was forced by a bad call that wasn’t reversed by the referees when a receiver was incorrectly ruled out of bounds. Generally, if the refs are the only entity to stop your quarterback, he’s having a historic night.
After the Seminoles’ 41-13 victory over the Pitt Panthers where Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns (and ran for another), FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher told the media, “It’s one ball game, guys.” I’ve been trying to echo his sentiments all day, but that’s tough to do when your school’s quarterback is the talk of college football after just one career game. You want to be guarded, but you also want to enjoy the ride.
You want to be in awe of Winston’s incredible skills on the field, but you also hope he starts sliding when he takes off to run. I realize there’s probably no chance he ever repeats the incredible Monday night performance, but I hope that when the incompletions begin to come and his confidence is shaken, he’s resilient enough to work through his problems instead of looking around for help as so many FSU quarterbacks have done in the last decade.
Winston has said and done all the right things so far, but how will he react to two weeks off, being the Big Man on Campus? Will it motivate him to work harder or serve as a distraction?
For now, we’re all along for the ride, and if our freshman phenom gets a little too full of himself, he’s already given us instructions on how to handle it:
“If I ever get Manziel disease, I want all of you to smack me in the head with your microphones,” he told reporters at FSU Media Day, less than a month ago.
He took that microphone and stepped to the podium to announce himself to the rest of the sports world on Monday night, and he did it against a Pitt defense that was no slouch. The Panthers had nine returning starters and they ranked in the top-30 in most defensive statistics last season, so while Jameis may not be ready to carve up the Alabama defense, he beat a pretty decent group up and down the field with ease.
Jeff Cameron, host of the afternoon sports radio show on ESPN Tallahassee, gave an inspiring wrap-up of Monday night’s game during his Tuesday afternoon show, but it was a two-sentence statement that eloquently summed up the feelings of Nole Nation, one day after a new era began.
“Jameis Winston is a badass. And he’s our badass.”