By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – One of Florida State’s finest players etched his name atop the school record books while the top-ranked Seminoles passed their final test before a much-anticipated showdown with No. 5 Notre Dame.
With a 9-yard catch-and-run midway through the third quarter here at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, senior receiver Rashad Greene notched the 213th catch of his career, surpassing Ron Sellers for the most receptions in school history.
It was part of a record-setting day for FSU, which extended its school-best winning streak to 22 following a 38-20 victory over the Syracuse Orange.
The win moved the Seminoles to 6-0 (4-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play) and ensured that FSU will play in a bowl game for a 33rd consecutive season.
“Any time you can come on the road and get a victory, that’s a great accomplishment,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Again, this is a tough place to play. I thought Syracuse played a very good football game.”
Greene, who finished with a team-high 107 yards on six catches, will garner most of the headlines. But a few of his cohorts did some record-book rewriting, too.
Chief among them was tight end Nick O’Leary, who caught his 83rd career pass early in the first quarter to become FSU’s all-time leader for catches at his position.
Gary Parris’ record of 82 had stood since 1972.
O’Leary, much more involved in the offense Saturday after a quiet couple of weeks, had 97 yards on eight catches. One of which came via a leaping, 21-yard grab in the end zone that gave the Seminoles a 24-6 lead at halftime.
“Rashad and Nick, man, I’m blessed to have two guys like them,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “It means so much to me that I can say that I’m their quarterback when they break all these records at Florida State.”
Greene and O’Leary’s big days meant a lot to their quarterback, too.
With a 30-of-36, 317-yard performance, Winston topped the 300-yard mark for the 10th time in his career. That tied Danny Kanell for the second-most 300-yard games in school history.
Winston also threw career touchdown passes Nos. 49, 50 and 51, which surpassed fellow Heisman-winner Charlie Ward for fifth-place on FSU’s career TDs list. Winston needs one more to tie Gary Huff in fourth.
“Jameis was highly efficient – 30 of 36,” Fisher said. “Made good decisions all day.”
Making the first start of his career, third-year sophomore Mario Pender ran for 46 yards and scored two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) before leaving with a twisted ankle.
Pender briefly returned to the game and later said he was fine. But a career performance from freshman Dalvin Cook allowed Pender to mostly take it easy in the second half.
Cook, a Miami native, topped the century mark for the first time in his career with 122 yards and a touchdown on 23 rushes.
“We love it,” Pender said. “Me and Karlos, we were sitting on the sideline the whole time, (encouraging) him along during the game. Telling him to stay patient, do what you can do best and keep running the ball. And he definitely showed that.”
The Orange, meanwhile, moved the ball well but couldn’t turn 412 total yards into many points.
That’s due in large part to an FSU red-zone defense that tightened up considerably once inside its 20-yard line. The Orange visited FSU’s red zone four times and produced only two field goals.
Tyler Hunter also had an interception for FSU, which has forced 11 turnovers through six games this season.
“(Turnovers) were really important,” said junior linebacker Reggie Northrup, who had seven tackles and a sack.
“We practice turnovers. We practice catching the ball. When the time came, the guys in that position executed.”