Arlington, Texas — Jameis Winston and No. 1 Florida State might have to play better for a return trip to the stadium where the next national title will be decided.
At least the reigning champion Seminoles didn’t leave the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys with a season-opening loss.
Winston threw for 370 yards and scored on a sparkling 28-yard run to smooth over some rough spots, and Florida State tied a school record with its 17th straight victory by holding off Oklahoma State 37-31 on Saturday night.
“We’ve got to get better,” Winston said. “I told our guys … we’ve got to go higher.”
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 unranked and rebuilding Cowboys were 19-point underdogs 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.
“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 cartwheeling 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 Cameron Erving 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.
“We just needed a play,” Winston said. “Everybody contributed on that play. A 300-pound lineman, when he cuts a linebacker all the way down the field, which was amazing, I had no choice but to put the ball in the end zone.”
Winston was 25 of 40 with two interceptions and several other misfires a year after throwing just two incompletions to beat Pitt in his debut. Cowboys defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah gave Winston the most trouble, getting two sacks and breaking up two passes.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Fisher said. “We all know that. We have some good players but we still have to play good. It’s not about being great; it’s about playing great.”
Speedy Oklahoma State newcomer Tyreek Hill 106 had combined yards rushing and receiving. He was a perfect decoy on a 55-yard scoring pass to David Glidden, who was uncovered and ran untouched after catching the ball at the 30 to make it 20-17.
“We know he’s fast,” Gundy said. “We confirmed that. Because those guys who were chasing him are fast.”
Hill recovered from a botched kickoff return that stranded the Cowboys at their 3-yard line and led to Nate Andrews’ 9-yard interception return for the game’s first touchdown.
Oklahoma State also had trouble on punts, with a bad snap leading to the drive that ended in Winston’s scoring run. Another poor snap in the fourth quarter gave Florida State good field position, and Robert Aguayo’s third field goal put the Seminoles up by six.
No. 2 Alabama 33, West Virginia 23: At Atlanta, Blake Sims was good enough to finish 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 the entire game. The fifth-year senior beat out Florida State transfer Jake Coker for the start. Tide coach Nick Saban had suggested both quarterbacks would play, but Sims never came out.
(At) No. 4 Oklahoma 48, Louisiana Tech 16: Trevor Knight threw for 253 yards and a touchdown and Keith Ford had 116 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Ford ran for 51 yards and caught four passes for 65 yards for the Sooners, who rolled to a 31-0 lead in the second quarter in the opener for both teams. Samaje Perine ran for 77 yards and a touchdown and Alex Ross ran for rushed two scores.
(At) No. 6 Auburn 45, Arkansas 21: 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. The Tigers scored the final 24 points after the Razorbacks managed to force a halftime deadlock. The game was delayed 1 hour, 28 minutes due to lightning in the area during the fourth quarter.
No. 7 UCLA 28, (at) Virginia 20: UCLA scored three defensive touchdowns before Brett Hundley led them on a critical second-half scoring drive. Hundley, widely regarded as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, was harassed all day by Virginia’s pressure defense, and made the biggest play of the day for UCLA with his feet. It came on a 6-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter when he overpowered safety Quin Blanding on a 6-yard TD run.
(At) No. 11 Stanford 45, UC Davis 0: Ty Montgomery returned his first career punt for a touchdown and caught five passes for 77 yards and another score, and Stanford tuned up for a date with No. 15 Southern California next week. The All-American kick returner, who was cleared by team doctors to play this week after offseason surgery on his right shoulder, looked ready to be the Cardinal’s do-it-all playmaker again. He ran his first punt back 60 yards for a TD and lined up all over the field, including once as a wildcat quarterback.
(At) No. 12 Georgia 45, No. 16 Clemson 21: Todd Gurley ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns, returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score, and Georgia gained some early style points in the national race. If rating Heisman Trophy favorites after Week 1, Gurley would surely be among the favorites. He made the most of his limited touches on a sweltering night, averaging 17.2 yards every time he got his hands on the ball. He set a school record for all-purpose yards with 293, breaking the record of 290 set by Rodney Hampton in 1987.
(At) No. 15 Southern California 52, Fresno State 13: Cody Kessler threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another and Southern California ended a trying week with a win in Steve Sarkisian’s debut as the Trojans’ head coach. The Trojans ran a school- and Pac-12 record 104 plays while racking up 37 first downs and 701 yards of total offense to Fresno State’s 16 first downs and 317 yards.
For USC, the victory comes at the end of a distracting week for Sarkisian, punctuated by a tale of heroism by suspended defensive captain Josh Shaw that turned out to be a lie. Backup running back Anthony Brown also quit the team and called Sarkisian a racist, an allegation the coach and other players vehemently denied.
(At) No. 20 Kansas State 55, Stephen F. Austin 16: Jake Waters threw for 223 yards and accounted for four touchdowns and Charles Jones ran for a pair of scores. Waters threw touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett and Kody Cook while also running for two TDs as the Wildcats improved to 21-2 in season openers under longtime coach Bill Snyder.
(At) No. 23 North Carolina 56, Liberty 29: Marquise Williams accounted for four touchdowns while Jeff Schoettmer returned an interception for a score during North Carolina’s game-turning flurry. Schoettmer’s 19-yard return came during a run of four touchdowns in fewer than 4 minutes, which jolted the Tar Heels out of a sluggish and mistake-prone performance in the season opener.
(At) No. 24 Missouri 38, South Dakota State 18: Maty Mauk threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Mauk seemed at ease early, finding receiver Darius White crossing behind the Jackrabbits’ defense for a 44-yard touchdown pass just 50 seconds into the game. The Tigers extended their lead to 21-10 at halftime and never trailed.