Twice, his eyes were downfield but his feet were backpedaling.
On another play, he didn’t even have time to get that far.
Over the course of three snaps throughout Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was thrown to the ground in the backfield. Each time by the same Oklahoma State defensive end: Emmanuel Ogbah.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound sophomore’s first-career start was a breakout performance that kept Winston on the run much of the night – despite the fact FSU started a senior at every position on its offensive line.
Ogbah finished with six tackles (two for loss), two pass breakups and two sacks (three had one not been negated by penalty).
“I didn’t feel any pressure,” Ogbah said. “I treated them like they were any other team. I have all the respect for (Winston). He’s a Heisman Trophy winner and a national champion, but we trained really hard for this game.”
What stood out past Ogbah’s stats was his versatility. He started and spent much of the game at defensive end, but also rotated in at defensive tackle — where his long arms swept through Winston’s passing lanes.
“(Ogbah) has got a chance to be a good player,” coach Mike Gundy said. “As long as he continues to work hard and pay the price, he should get better and better each week.”
Ogbah comes into this season off a freshman year that earned him honorable mention Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. He played in every game, recording 20 tackles and four sacks. But even then, no one could have quite predicted just how productive Ogbah would be starting week one in 2014.
But as far as Ogbah’s concerned, his performance was just step one toward what he plans to be a statement season.
“We came in expecting to do big things this year,” Ogbah said. “Everybody doubted us, but we don’t care what people think. We just care about what we have to show the world.”
During fall camp, Gundy projected the defensive line could become of the strongest in recent memory. Saturday was a good start. Sophomore defensive end Jimmy Bean added two tackles for loss and defensive tackle James Castleman also made five stops.
Ogbah still said, “We need a lot of improvement.” A good sign for the future.
“We have some maturity, we have depth, we have leadership, we have strength,” Gundy said. “Guys who have been in our program for a number of years and been developing in our strength conditioning program.”