ARLINGTON, Texas — Jameis Winston looked uncomfortable.
He was jittery in the pocket, indecisive about where to throw the football and seemingly unsure of himself.
Simply put, he was not the Jameis Winston that the country became accustomed to last season.
But with Oklahoma State gaining momentum, Florida State's reigning Heisman Trophy winner found a way.
The sophomore quarterback broke off a 28-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of Saturday's contest against Oklahoma State to put FSU ahead 27-17. The play gave the top-ranked Seminoles enough energy to avoid an upset in their season opener at AT&T Stadium. No. 1 FSU (1-0) held on to defeat Oklahoma State 37-31 in front of an announced crowd of 61,521 in Arlington, Texas.
"I'm very proud of -- we never had momentum, but we kept fighting, scratching, and clawing and figured out a way to win the game," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Before Winston's remarkable run, Oklahoma State (0-1) had out-scored FSU 17-3 and Winston was 18-of-30 passing for 260 yards and two interceptions. On top of that, FSU's rushing attack was woeful.
The designed draw was sparked by running back Karlos Williams' lead block. Winston hurdled his own lineman Josue Matias, who was on the ground by the 10-yard line, then immediately avoided a would-be tackler with a back-step as he landed. Winston then lowered his shoulder to push through another defender as he fell into the end zone. The ball appeared to come loose and the play was reviewed, but there was not conclusive evidence the overturn the call.
"We just needed a play. Everybody just got together, 'we was like we have to score a touchdown,'" Winston said. "And I don't know if it was third down or second down, but we needed a big play. And everybody -- everybody contributed on that play. Josue got down the field. And a 300-pound lineman went and cut a linebacker all the way down the field.
"That was amazing. I had no choice but to put the ball in the end zone."
FSU's defense carried the Seminoles in the early part of the game against a revamped Oklahoma State offense.
The Seminoles held Oklahoma State to five yards on seven total plays in the Cowboys' first three drives, with safety Nate Andrews scoring off a nine-yard interception to put FSU up 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
Eventually, FSU's defense wore down against the speedy Cowboys. J.W. Walsh found receiver David Glidden wide open on a wheel pattern for a 55-yard touchdown reception to cut FSU's lead to 20-17 with 10:45 remaining in the third period.
While Winston salvaged the game shortly after, he never fully got into a rhythm.
The swift precision that Winston, and the entire offense, operated with last season was absent. So consistent throughout last season, Winston was hit or miss in the first half against Oklahoma State.
He delivered several flawless passes that went for gains of 62 and 51 yards. But he also forced two throws to Rashad Greene that resulted in interceptions.
Winston's first pick came early in the second half inside the red zone, negating what could've been a score.
His next came at the end of the first half, a time when Winston typically thrived last year. He threw a low pass intended for Greene, but it was picked off by cornerback Ashton Lampkin at FSU's 49-yard line. The play eventually led to a 37-yard field goal as time expired at the end of the period, cutting FSU's lead to 17-10.
Winston finished with 370 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on 25-of-40 passing. Greene led FSU with 11 receptions for 203 yards and a score.
It was the antithesis of last year's season opener, when FSU's offense got off to a fast start while the defense took a while to settle down. Although the Seminoles' defense did not dominate like it typically did last season, it came up with timely stops.
Cornerback P.J. Williams, the defensive MVP of the national title game, forced a fumble as he flipped Walsh into the air and then subsequently recovered the ball.
FSU capitalized on Williams' play, with Winston finding Greene across the middle of the field on a slant pattern that broke into a 50-yard touchdown with 3:58 remaining to put FSU up 37-24.
"Well, Rashad is a game changer, you know? And that's something our team needed, was a good touchdown from him," Winston said. "So he made a great play and took it to the house."
Walsh scored on a three-yard run with 1:55 left but could not recover the ensuing onside kick.
Skirting disaster — FSU would have been the first No. 1 ranked team to drop a season opener since Miami in 1990 — the Seminoles return to the friendly confines of Doak Campbell Stadium next Saturday. There, they will host The Citadel in their home opener at 7:30 p.m.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun