ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Jameis Winston threw for 370 yards and scored on a 28-yard run, and No. 1 Florida State opened the defense of its national title with a 37-31 victory Saturday night over Oklahoma State on the same field where this season’s champion will be crowned.
The sophomore quarterback wasn’t nearly as efficient as he was in the college debut that jump-started his Heisman Trophy season a year ago. But he made plays when it mattered to help the Seminoles hang on after almost squandering a 17-0 lead.
The Cowboys were 19-point underdogs in the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys but stayed close when J.W. Walsh matched Winston’s scoring run with a 24-yard sprint and dive across the goal line to get within 27-24 early in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to get better,” Winston said. “I told our guys . . . we’ve got to go higher.”
“You don’t ever know what to expect with so many young players on the field,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, whose offense only has two players with at least 10 career starts. “But we never saw any fear in any of their eyes.”
Winston’s only passing touchdown was a 50-yarder to Rashad Greene, who had 203 yards receiving.
The scoring pass, which gave Florida State a 37-24 lead, was set up when P.J. Williams sent Walsh cart-wheeling to the turf on a hit that forced a fumble. Williams recovered the loose ball.
“We all preached it, but I do think they felt the pressure of being No. 1. I do,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Now I think we can relax and go play football.”
Walsh, who had 203 yards passing and led his team with 51 yards rushing, got the unranked and rebuilding Cowboys within six in the final 2 minutes on his second TD run, but they couldn’t get the ball back.
The Seminoles were up three in the third quarter when Winston broke loose for the longest run of his career. He hurdled offensive lineman Josue Matias at the 10 and sidestepped a defender at the 5 before diving across the goal line as the ball was falling out of his arms.
The score was reviewed, and Oklahoma State players celebrated on the sideline when the giant video board showed the ball coming out near the goal line.
Seconds later, referee Land Clark of the Pac-12 announced that the touchdown was upheld, drawing loud reactions from both sides of a crowd split pretty evenly between Florida State’s dark red and Oklahoma State’s bright orange.
No. 2 Alabama 33, West Virginia 23: In Atlanta, Blake Sims was good enough in his first start at quarterback for Alabama, getting plenty of help from Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.
Sims was 24 for 33 for 250 yards and added 42 running, playing every meaningful series. The fifth-year senior beat out Florida State transfer Jake Coker for the start.
No. 4 Oklahoma 48, Louisiana Tech 16: In Norman, Oklahoma, Trevor Knight threw for 253 yards and a touchdown and Keith Ford had 116 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns for Oklahoma.
No. 5 Ohio State 34, Navy 17: In Baltimore, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns in his college debut, and Ohio State got its 25th consecutive regular-season victory.
No. 6 Auburn 45, Arkansas 21: In Auburn, Alabama, Jeremy Johnson passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and Nick Marshall returned from suspension with a 19-yard scoring run for Auburn.
No. 7 UCLA 28, Virginia 20: In Charlottesville, Virginia, UCLA scored three defensive touchdowns before Brett Hundley led the Bruins on a critical second-half scoring drive.
No. 11 Stanford 45, UC Davis 0: In Stanford, California, Ty Montgomery returned his first career punt for a touchdown and caught five passes for 77 yards and another score for Stanford.
No. 12 Georgia 45, No. 16 Clemson 21: In Athens, Georgia, Todd Gurley ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns, and returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score for Georgia.
No. 13 LSU 28, No. 14 Wisconsin 24: In Houston, Kenny Hilliard scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to cap LSU’s fourth-quarter rally against Wisconsin at NRG Stadium.
No. 15 USC 52, Fresno State 13: In Los Angeles, Cody Kessler threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns and Southern California ended a trying week with victory in Steve Sarkisian’s debut as the Trojans’ coach.
The Trojans ran a school- and Pac-12 record 105 plays while racking up 37 first downs and 702 yards of total offense to Fresno State’s 16 first downs and 315 yards.
No. 17 Notre Dame 48, Rice 17: In South Bend, Indiana, Everett Golson threw touchdown passes of 75 and 53 yards and ran for three more scores in his return after missing the 2013 season for academic impropriety.
No. 20 Kansas State 55, Stephen F. Austin 16: In Manhattan, Kansas, Jake Waters threw for 223 yards and accounted for four touchdowns and Charles Jones ran for a pair of scores.