Even as the off-the-field allegations continue to surface, it was just another day at the office for Jameis Winston.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner completed 30-of-36 passes for three touchdowns. His calm and confident play led the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles in a 38-20 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. The defending champion Seminoles (6-0) are halfway to another undefeated season.
"To beat the No. 1 team in the country is a very difficult task," Scott Shafer said. "I really believed this week that we could beat this team, but we didn't get that done today."
Syracuse had an improved performance even with a new quarterback, with a new offensive coordinator and without a dozen injured players. But the Orange's effort wasn't rewarded with a win. With this defeat, Syracuse (2-4) now has lost four in a row.
"We go out to win every week, but we didn't win the game," Shafer said. "I like the way we fought, but I'm really not into those types of victories, those moral victories. Moral victories don't count at the end of the season."
This week, a report from Fox Sports found that Florida State University officials and Tallahassee police hindered the criminal investigation into Winston last fall. School officials also told Winston this week that he will face a disciplinary hearing for possible violations of the student conduct code. But Winston didn't face any trouble against the Syracuse defense.
"He understands the truth and he knows what happened," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He just plays ball. He can eliminate those things and the situations ahead."
On the Seminoles' opening drive, Winston put away any doubt that his personal issues would affect his play. He completed all five of his passes in that series. The eight-play, 70-yard drive started with one of his many pinpoint passes to tight end Nick O'Leary. It ended with Mario Pender running over a few defenders for a 12-yard touchdown.
When cornerback Julian Whigham was asked where Winston ranks among the quarterbacks he's faced, he answered "right up there at the top".
Without Terrel Hunt, Syracuse countered with the freshman quarterback combination of Austin Wilson and AJ Long. When Wilson came out for the first drive, SU's red zone misery continued. The drive ended on a third-down play at the Seminoles' 19. Wilson tried to connect with Ben Lewis on the left sideline, but Jalen Ramsey stepped in front of the pass for an interception. The Orange settled for field goals on two other red zone possessions and turned the ball over on downs on another one.
"We need to do a good job of understanding just how important it is that when we have opportunities, we have to make them," Shafer said.
On Syracuse's second drive, Long came in for Wilson and the two freshmen alternated playing time from then out. Long had some rookie mistakes - two interceptions prove that - but he was able to move the ball against the Seminoles defense. He threw for 167 yards and was in the game for every drive that Syracuse scored. He also did something that no other Orange passer has done this season - throw two touchdown passes. Both went to fellow freshman Steve Ishmael. Long's strong performance helped Syracuse stay even with the Seminoles after halftime.
"It was a very awesome experience and one I've been looking forward to a long time," Long said. "You couldn't write a script any better for a true freshman."
Offensive coordinator Tim Lester wouldn't name a starting quarterback for next week's game. Wilson left the game in the second half after getting hit in the head by a Seminoles defender. Lester said his decision will depend on Wilson's health, how both freshmen plays in practice this week and the type of defense Syracuse will face in Wake Forest.