Mario Pender scored from 12 yards out on Florida State’s opening drive and the top-ranked Seminoles never looked back in a 38-20 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome Saturday.
Florida State started off strong, marching right down the field for the first score of the day but was never quite able to totally blow the doors off a Syracuse squad who came into the game at 2-3 (0-1 ACC). Florida State improves to 6-0 (4-0 ACC) and along with Marshall becomes the first two teams to become bowl-eligible in 2014.
Despite the looming Title IX disciplinary hearing, quarterback Jameis Winston was on point from the opening snap and finished 30-for-36 for 317 yards three touchdowns with no interceptions for the Seminoles.
Mario Pender, starting at running back for injured starter Karlos Williams, flashed early running for 46 yards and finding the end zone before injuring his leg. He later briefly returned to the game but in his stead Dalvin Cook was just as solid, running for 122 yards and his own score. Both averaged more than five yards-per-carry as the running game finally looked the way most thought it would coming into the season. Pender also caught a touchdown.
Tight end Nick O’Leary finally broke free this year for 97 yards receiving and a touchdown. The Seminole defense played better for the most part, recording three interceptions but also gave away several chunk plays through the air.
Although head coach Jimbo Fisher declared starting corners Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams healthy, there are doubts they have fully recovered from their lingering hamstring issues.
Rashad Greene became Florida State’s all-time leading receiver as he broke Ron Sellers’ school record for most receptions with 213. Greene finished the day with six catches for 107 yards. Sellers’ record for total reception yards (3598) is also within reach for Greene, who needs only 557 yards to reach the mark. As if that wasn’t enough, Greene also needs just seven touchdowns to tie Peter Warrick’s career record of most reception touchdowns at 31.
Florida State also extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 22 games and will look to extend it to 23 when ESPN’s College Gameday and the highly-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish visit Tallahassee next Saturday night in primetime.