CORAL GABLES - Jameis Winston’s numbers are just ridiculous. A 70 percent completion rate. An average of 311 passing yards per game. Multiple touchdown throws in every outing so far this season.
That’s how a redshirt freshman becomes a Heisman Trophy frontrunner.
That’s also why the Florida State quarterback has Miami’s full attention.
Seven teams have tried, all have failed, and now it’s Miami’s turn to figure out a way to solve the riddle of “Famous Jameis,” who will lead No. 3 Florida State (7-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) against the seventh-ranked Hurricanes (7-0, 3-0) in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday. And the Hurricanes are making no secret of the fact that at least slowing Winston down is an absolute priority for them this weekend.
“He’s beyond his years,” said Miami coach Al Golden, whose eyes widened a bit Monday when asked what impresses him about Winston’s game. “He’s talented. He’s mature with the football. Strong arm, can move his feet, can create from a bad situation and I just think he’s excellent. Regardless of his age or year in school, he’s excellent. He’s playing really well and they’re executing at a high level.”
Winston’s debut was a 25-for-27 outing at Pittsburgh.
He hasn’t exactly cooled off much since opening night.
His 23 touchdown passes tie him for third-most in the nation. His touchdown percentage rate of 12.6 leads the nation. His yards per attempt, yards per completion and passer rating all rank No. 2 nationally so far this season. And if swagger could be measured, he might lead the nation in that, too – a clip of him telling teammates “We ain’t leavin’ without a victory” before the blowout win at Clemson has been replayed countless times.
He backed those words up, too. Winston threw for 444 yards against a Tiger defense that was allowing 186.5 per game.
“He’s a great player,” Miami linebacker Jimmy Gaines said of Winston. “He can make all the throws. He can make all the throws and you can really see he’s a competitor. He’s really a competitor, so I mean, it’s going to be a great challenge for us as a defense just to go against him and play against him. I’m excited for it.”
So it’s clear, Winston’s numbers are silly.
Then again, this is Miami-Florida State. Numbers against other teams aren’t always the best indicator of what happens in this rivalry game. Take the story of former FSU quarterback Chris Rix, for example. In games where he threw a pass against anyone besides Miami, the Seminoles went 30-9. When Rix played against Miami, the Seminoles went 0-5.
And that’s just part of Miami’s history of thwarting Florida State quarterbacks. The Seminoles have passed for only 11 touchdowns in their last 13 games against the Hurricanes. Miami’s defense this year has given up only six passing touchdowns, tied for third-fewest in the nation.
But Winston, so far, has seemed unfazed by Heismanmania and everything else thrown his way. The Seminoles hope he handles Miami’s defense with the same poise this weekend.
“How he’s gotten there is the thing I think he’s got to remember, and I think he’s doing a great job of that,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Who was I before everyone knew me? I’m the same guy. And I think he does that. And I think our team respects that from him. He’s one of the guys, but at the same time, they have tremendous respect for him. He seems like the same guy to me.”
For obvious reasons, Miami quarterback Stephen Morris is studying Florida State’s defense this week, not his contemporary on the other side of the ball. But even Morris is aware of the highlight-reel season Winston is putting together.
In fact, Morris even basically acknowledged that he’s a bit of a Winston fan.
“I think he’s doing an unbelievable job,” Morris said. “Obviously, it’s pretty hard for defenses to stop him. I know our defense is going to have a tough time. They’re a great offensive team. Jameis has done a lot of great things. He’s having an unbelievable season, I wish him all the best and I’m excited to see him play.”