TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Compared with recent games, Florida State kept the drama to a minimum against Virginia on Saturday night.
The second-ranked Seminoles overcame three turnovers and another early deficit before rallying to a 21-point second quarter and a 34-20 victory over Virginia.
This game offered a slight breather for FSU, which needed every last second to beat Notre Dame on Oct. 18 and then had to rally from three touchdowns down in a win at Louisville last week.
Florida State extended its school-record winning streak to 25 and can tie Nebraska (1994-96) for the third-longest streak of the last 20 years with a win at Miami next week.
“Happy that we came out and got a victory,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Give [Virginia] a lot of credit. I didn’t think we played up to our capabilities at times.”
The Seminoles (9-0, 6-0 ACC) got strong efforts from their offense and defense, although not always at the same time.
Jameis Winston and Co. powered through a sluggish start, thanks in large part to a defense that forced three first-half turnovers (two fumble recoveries and an interception) deep in UVA territory.
The Seminoles parlayed each of those takeaways into touchdowns — two short runs by Karlos Williams and a 22-yard TD strike from Winston to Rashad Greene.
“It was very critical (to capitalize on turnovers) early,” Fisher said.
“When you have red zone turnovers, short fields like that … those are things that hurt you tremendously,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “We bent, sometimes we broke, but at the same time the effort that was given out there was a pretty good effort against this football team.”
Greene once again was the catalyst for an offense that, despite a few hiccups, picked up 376 total yards against a UVa defense that came into the game ranked 28th in the country.
With former FSU All-American receiver Ron Sellers in attendance, Greene set a new career high with 13 catches for 136 yards.
Greene broke Sellers’ FSU record for career receptions earlier this year and has a chance to surpass more of Sellers’ marks before the season ends.
“They weren’t trying to give up a lot of deep routes, so we took what they gave us,” Greene said. “I did the short routes and that’s what I was able to do tonight.”
FSU needed him, too, because no other Seminole receiver caught more than five passes.
Winston’s 261 yards marked his second-lowest output this season, and his two first-half interceptions led to 13 Virginia points. But the redshirt sophomore also bounced back to complete 63 percent (22-35) of his passes after a 5-for-11 first quarter.
“Late in the game, that’s when I got it turned around,” Winston said. “It’s not the offense starting slow now. It’s just me starting slow.”
FSU’s defense, meanwhile, had one of its better outings of the season. The Seminoles limited Virginia to only 257 yards of offense and a paltry 37 rushing yards.
And each of the Cavaliers’ three touchdowns came only after turnovers gave them the ball, once near midfield and twice more in FSU territory.
“The defense kept us in this ballgame,” Winston said. “I mean, they played a great game. Honestly, if I don’t throw picks (Virginia) probably doesn’t score. If I don’t give them good field position, they don’t score.”
Junior defensive end Mario Edwards led the way with a startling return to form. Moving all over the defensive line, Edwards posted career highs in tackles (nine) and tackles for loss (four) and delivered big hit on UVa running back Kevin Parks that forced a fumble.
Edwards said after the game that, after dealing with several nagging injuries throughout the season, he finally felt healthy on Saturday night.
“Felt good, felt light, felt fast,” he said.
“Mario is catching is second wind,” Fisher said. “He got banged up there in the middle a little bit and he got his weight in a really good place right now.
“I think he’s light, moving around with a lot of power and physicality.”
Next up for FSU is a visit to suddenly surging Miami, which has won three straight games by an average margin of 24 points.
Greene admitted that, in a season where the Seminoles still feel like they haven’t put together a complete game, next week would be a good time for their first.
“It’s coming soon,” he said. “We’re all going to get it together; we’re going to have a fast start and y’all are all going to see the Florida State that everybody is asking to see.”