Philadelphia, PA – There is a tendency in today's sports world to overreact. In an era when we want everything and we want it yesterday, too often teams and players are considered all-time greats one day and crippling disappointments the next, with little in between.
The first weekend of college football is ripe for such reactions. It happened last year when Geno Smith erupted early and was considered the Heisman Trophy front-runner. However, Smith didn't even get an invite to the award ceremony in December.
Right now, Florida State has a similar situation on its hands. Jameis Winston put together one of the greatest single-game performances by a quarterback in college football history on Monday night.
That is not an exaggeration.
In his first career start, the redshirt freshman completed an incredible 25-of-27 pass attempts for 356 yards and four touchdowns while also running in a score in FSU's 41-13 win over Pittsburgh.
The effort equated to a 252.23 passer rating. To put that number in recent historical context, it was better than any single game output of at least 25 attempts from Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Troy Smith, Matt Leinart, Jason White, Carson Palmer or Eric Crouch. In case you were wondering, those are the last 10 quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy.
Winston's showing also topped the performances put forth by likely Heisman front-runners Tajh Boyd (168.60) and Teddy Bridgewater (240.43) in the first weekend of games.
One of the more impressive aspects of Winston's outing was how well he performed out of the gate. Winston completed his first 11 pass attempts. The streak arguably could have continued if officials had not determined that Kenny Shaw was out of bounds when he caught the 12th attempt of the night.
Keeping calm in such a pressure-packed situation is a strength Winston will need to maintain. It's a task he seems perfectly capable of accomplishing.
"Very comfortable," Winston said of how he felt during his first game. "Every time I step in the huddle, the offensive line is looking at me with their mean looks and I have to be calm for them. They have to see it in my eyes." . For a player who already had hype building around him during the offseason, part of which he spent playing baseball for the Seminoles, the excitement is now shooting into the stratosphere.
However, both Winston and his head coach Jimbo Fisher know that one game does not an All-American make.
"I got protected all night," Winston said. "When it's coming that easy and I have guys to throw the ball to and guys protecting me, any quarterback can go out there."
Meanwhile, Fisher praised Winston for his poise in the pocket and the strong start to the season but kept hard to the company line.
"It's one ball game, guys. He played one game, that's it," Fisher said. "As long as he keeps the process in mind and keeps working with great habits, everything will be fine. It's not about age, it's about habits."
Even if Fisher didn't vocalize it, he has to be hopeful his 19-year-old signal caller will continue to perform at such a high level, especially if he wants his team to reach the high standards for which Florida State is known.
Last Saturday, Clemson, FSU's biggest rival for the ACC title this year, topped a strong Georgia team behind the arm of Boyd. Having strength at quarterback was thought to be one of Clemson's decided advantages over the Seminoles this year. Winston could change all that.
With last year's starter, E.J. Manuel, now playing for the Buffalo Bills of the NFL, the Seminoles had a big hole to fill this offseason at the game's most important position.
Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia, leaving a group of sophomores and freshmen to fill the starting spot on the roster sheet. Of the group, only sophomore Jacob Coker had seen game action. Winston separated himself as the top option but was still a bit of question mark despite his potential.
Now in a single contest, Winston has assuaged all those concerns. Additionally, he has given a team that ranked second in the country in total defense last season one of the most dynamic players on the other side of the ball. That sort of revelation should send shivers up the spines of coaches from Tuscaloosa to Eugene.
However, like Fisher and Winston both reiterated, Monday's showing was just one game. There are still another 11 tests on the schedule and, as has been illustrated in the past, fast starts can dissipate into mediocre finishes just as quickly.
"Pittsburgh's in the back. Obviously, we got the win, but it's a process," Winston said, while adding, "I can get better every single day."
Being better than he was on Monday might not be possible, but the college football world is excited to see him try.