The clock was drained to its last second before Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston finally called for the snap.
He knew how important it was for the Seminoles to get a score before the end of the half — even if the end zone was 55 yards away.
Coach Jimbo Fisher preached it so much that Winston could practically hear his voice with every tick of the clock.
“He always harps on scoring before the end of the half,” Winston said.
The Seminoles had done it in each of their previous two games, but this time it felt like more of a necessity.
Florida State had been trading punches with Boston College, a team that had gone three years without sniffing a lead in the series, and found itself staring down the possibility of going into the half tied at 17.
Winston dropped back and from there the play swung from near-disaster to momentum changer for the Seminoles in a 48-34 win at Alumni Stadium.
Before Winston could even get a clear look downfield, defensive lineman Mehdi Abdesmad was at his waist trying to tug him to the ground. The moment Winston managed to shake free, linebacker Mike Strizak was lunging at his legs.
From the sideline, the only way Seminoles senior linebacker Telvin Smith could describe the play was in sound effects.
“We saw Jameis going down, we said, ‘Aww,’ ” Smith said, recreating the scene on FSU’s side of the field. “We saw him come out, we said, ‘Ah!’ ”
Winston was finally able to eye an open receiver, senior Kenny Shaw, streaking down the right sideline.
“He pointed to me and told me, ‘Go,’ ” Shaw said.
When Winston gave Shaw the wave, the signal was clear.
“I was like, let’s bomb this ball,” Winston said.
The ball hung up, practically sucking the air out of the stadium on its way down.
It seemed almost inevitable that Shaw would find a way to wrap himself around Eagles defensive back Spenser Rositano and corral it.
“It couldn’t have been more in the money,” Shaw said. “I knew he could get it there. He could throw on his knees, probably, to the end zone.”
It was the last of Florida State’s three touchdowns to end the half, and the Seminoles sideline blew up on their way to the tunnel.
“We saw the ball go in the air, we said, ‘Oh!’ ” Smith said. “We saw Kenny come down with it, it was a ‘Hoo-ray!’ ”
The 55-yard hookup was one of Winston’s 17 completions on 27 attempts. In all, he threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns, continuing to exceed expectations for a redshirt freshman just four games — and four wins — into his career.
“He’s not playing like a redshirt freshman,” Shaw said. “It’s amazing just playing with a guy like that.”
Whether it was the 56-yard, second-quarter air-out to Rashad Greene that got the Seminoles in the end zone for the first time — the longest pass of Winston’s short career — or the 10-yard check-down TD to Chad Abram, Winston continually found ways to make plays.
“I will say this: I’m glad he’s on my team,” said Fisher. “He’s a great competitor, he’s a fun guy to coach. He does a great job when he comes out of pressure and he gets his eyes up. He sees things and he can translate from his mind to his feet to his hands like that.”
With 67 yards on the ground, Winston also found ways to make plays with his feet. But he was more concerned with the four times he was sacked. Even on the 55-yarder, he said, he could sense the pocket getting hotter the longer he held onto the ball.
“I actually held the ball too long,” Winston said. “That’s why they almost sacked me. It was a great play.”
Fisher acknowledged that knowing when to check down to his other receivers is the next step in Winston’s progression.
“He made a bunch of [big plays],” Fisher said. “At the end, a couple of times on those runs, he had some guys I think he could have checked the ball down to.
“I think he got caught up in the momentum of the game trying to keep making big plays. I think that’s part of youth and I think that’s part of growing.”
At the same time, Fisher offered a slight reality check.
“He’s only four games in,” he said. “We’ll wait. He’s got a good grasp of things. I like the way he’s playing. And there’s some things he’s got to get better at. He’ll be the first one to tell you. But he’s still making great reads and great plays. He’s developing very well.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.