RALEIGH, N.C. – Nyqwan Murray offered a glimpse of the future last week, catching six passes for 96 yards during Florida State’s loss to Clemson.
Saturday at North Carolina State, Murray showed that the future may indeed be now.
While the Seminoles’ offense took a little while to find the gas pedal, Murray was sensational from the start, catching nine passes for 154 yards to help FSU to a 24-20 win over the Wolfpack.
A sophomore from Orlando, Murray – nicknamed “Noonie” – saw 14 targets Saturday night, about 36 percent of quarterback Deondre Francois’ total attempts.
“I definitely feel like ‘Noonie’ is un-coverable,” FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden said. “I don’t care who you put on him.”
No argument from NC State.
The Wolfpack had no answer for Murray, who completed a variety of routes against a defense that came into the game ranked 28th in the nation.
Murray’s longest gain of the night – a 37-yarder – set up the Seminoles’ game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. And Murray struck for 25 yards to move the chains on a third-and-14 in the third.
Of Murray’s nine catches, all but two went for at least 12 yards.
“He runs great routes,” Francois. “Has great hands.”
Two traits often found in great receivers.
At 5-11, 176 pounds, Murray is far from Florida State’s biggest pass-catcher.
And he might not be the fastest, either – at least not as long as Kermit Whitfield is on the roster.
But teammates say that Murray runs exceptional routes that, aided with a natural ability to find holes in the defense, give fits to opposing defenders.
“He’s not huge, now, but he’s going to get open,” McFadden said. “He’s just shifty. He gets to top speed really quick and he can stop on a dime.”
Otherwise, Murray shows no signs of stopping.
And his emergence has meant big things for Francois, who against Clemson and NC State posted his best two-week passing total – 616 yards – in games versus FBS competition.
“(Murray) is very dynamic,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He can run routes, stick his foot in the ground. … I just think he’s got a great future here if we keep working with him and keep developing him.”
Fisher has long been confident in Murray’s on-field ability. Murray was perhaps the most heavily praised player on Florida State’s roster during fall camp, and expectations from fans and media went soaring after he had a big showing at an open scrimmage in August.
But before he could become a trusted part of the receiver rotation, Murray first had to learn how to perform on an everyday basis. Consistency has long been Fisher’s No. 1 requirement for his program, and it’s often the differentiator between players who see the field and players who don’t.
That didn’t come easily at first for Murray. He caught passes in each of FSU’s first three games, but then was held completely off the stat sheet for the next month.
“It (was) just maturity. It’s nothing wrong with (Murray),” Fisher said. “It’s just part of understanding how to do it every play. And everybody wants him to be ready. I do, too.
“But there’s going to be some growing pains, but also there’s going to be some great things.”
An injury to senior Jesus Wilson may have sparked Murray to grow out of his growing pains.
Wilson hurt his foot during FSU’s win over Wake Forest and hasn’t played since.
During the bye week that followed, Fisher approached Murray and told him that, with Wilson unavailable, the team needed him to take the next step.
Safe to say that Murray got the message.
“The guy can be a tremendous football player,” Fisher said. “And I love him. We’ve just got to get him going.”