After a loss, acknowledging the opponent is not the easiest thing to do for fans of the losing team. Even when the team is beaten as soundly as Pitt was by FSU. We fixate. We obsess about our team. We see all the mistakes, errors problems on one side. It’s easy to completely forget what the other team. What the other players did. I’m as guilty of it as anyone.
So, when Jameis Winston had as close to a perfect game by a QB as possible on Monday night. Regardless of the experience level, it becomes far too easy for us to make comments about how easy the corners and safeties made it for him, because they played off of him. Or that there wasn’t enough pressure from the D-line to take him out of his comfort zone or rhythm. That may be true to an extent.
At the same time, Winston just kept making the throws. He had two incompletes the entire game.
Devin Gardner of Michigan faced a completely incompetent Central Michigan team and still had 5 incomplete passes on only 15 attempts. Oregon utterly demolished a vastly overmatched 1-AA Nicholls St. 66-3 and Marcus Mariotta was 12-21. The closest comparison was Teddy Bridgewater in Louisville’s deconstruction of Ohio. Yet he even threw an interception and had 5 incomplete passes.
Should Pitt have been able to make it harder for Winston? Could they have? Yes. Absolutely. But that would not have changed how well he performed. It may have made it marginally closer. Maybe FSU only gets 27-31 points instead of 41. Jameis Winston had an amazing game that can make fans and columnists dreaming big. Or makes people envious.
And it wasn’t just a QB having an epic debut. The entire FSU team was locked in. They quickly adjusted after Pitt’s opening touchdown drive. They did not get complacent. They played very, very close to the level of their talent.
Their defense came hard all night and responded to their changes in defensive coordinator.
With first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s new scheme, the Seminoles’ pass rush won’t be nearly as reliant on the front four to get pressure on the quarterback.
Case in point: Lamarcus Joyner.
The FSU senior defensive back had exactly one sack in his career heading into Monday night. He had two against the Panthers.
“That’s what I need to do, man,” Joyner said with a wide smile. “I’m a dog, man. I need to get after the quarterback.”
Florida State’s defense had 38 sacks a season ago, with 33 coming from defensive linemen, three from linebackers and zero from defensive backs.
Monday night’s other sack came from junior defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, but the Seminoles were able to force pressure in a variety of ways.
Part of why Pitt fans felt there was a chance included FSU’s history in recent years of having a ridiculous let down game. Especially against ACC opponents. NC State last year. Wake Forest and Virginia in 2011. NC State and UNC in 2010. Inexplicable losses. And it still might happen to FSU this year. It just didn’t happen against Pitt.
Now it’s time for Pitt to figure out what they can do. What they can fix. What they can correct.
In his postgame comments, Pitt coach Paul Chryst was blunt.
“We got beat,” he said. “I’m anxious to look at the film. I liked our guys’ approach. Guys certainly competed, but we’ve got to be and do more than that. This is where we’re at right now, and it’s all about going forward.”
At the risk of being cliche, it is still only the first game. There are 11 games left and short of facing Clemson or FSU in the ACC Champoinship Game (and I’m definitely not saying that’s happening), there is no team on the schedule that will be as good as that FSU team — and that includes Notre Dame.