Stopping Winston, Seminoles a monumental task for Idaho

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.com © 2013 Idaho StatesmanNovember 23, 2013 

Florida State fans may still believe in No. 5 — freshman quarterback Jameis Winston — but the sexual assault case against him continues. State attorney Willie Meggs said Friday there are still “four or five’’ things that still need to be done before a final decision is made on whether to bring charges against the quarterback. “We don’t have everything yet,” Meggs said.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

— They’re 1-9. They give up 45.7 points a game. They’re traveling more than 2,000 miles to play at No. 2 Florida State. They’re tasked with slowing down the possible Heisman Trophy front-runner.

Yes, the Vandals understand the difficult task ahead of trying to beat the Seminoles and quarterback Jameis Winston.

“It’s probably the biggest challenge I’ve had to face as a football player,” junior linebacker Marc Millan said.

Winston, a redshirt freshman, is still expected to start even as a sexual assault investigation against him plays out in Tallahassee. Idaho is intent on trying to do what no one else has — bottle up Winston.

The 6-foot-4, 228-pound Winston has completed 70.9 percent of his passes (185-of-261) for 2,938 yards with 28 touchdowns to seven interceptions. His 195.5 passer efficiency rating is second in the nation.

“He’s got a big arm, he can make all the throws. … He has one of the highest ratings of a quarterback versus pressure,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.

According to ESPN Stats And Info, Winston is completing nearly 74 percent of his passes when being hit or hurried. The average for FBS quarterbacks is half that. Oh, and Winston is averaging 13.6 yards per attempt in those situations.

That doesn’t jibe with what typically is the best way to stop a quarterback — pressure him.

“His poise is impressive. That’s why he’s in the running (for the Heisman),” Idaho junior linebacker Juan Martinez said. “We have to rush our asses off, basically. You have to be relentless and get to him quickly. That’s what we expect to do against anyone, whether it’s a guy like him or not.”

The Vandals believe Winston is perhaps the best quarterback they’ve faced this season, and they’ve already played Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch and Fresno State’s Derek Carr.

“It doesn’t seem like he gets rattled,” Petrino said of Winston. “He sees the field well, and he can stretch the field vertically and horizontally. That makes it tough to defend. A combination of his vision, poise and arm strength makes him a very special player.”

Florida State is second nationally (behind Baylor) with 52.7 points per game. The Seminoles have not been held under 41 points, while the Vandals have held just one team to less than 37.

Winston, receiver Rashad Greene, and running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. will be Idaho’s toughest tests in a tough year. Most are expecting the top stars to be on the sidelines with the game well in hand in the second half, yet the Vandals themselves are still looking forward to the challenge.

“I know for me, it’s the reason I play football, to test myself,” Millan said. “I’m excited.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420; Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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