By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Florida State had its own Thursday night magic.
E.J. Manuel connected with Rashad Greene and he did the rest, dashing 39 yards to the right corner of the end zone with 40 seconds left in the game, and No. 10 Seminoles escaped with a 28-22 ACC victory over Virginia Tech in front of a national television audience and an announced crowd of 65,632 on a cold, windy night at Lane Stadium.
Cody Journell had made a 21-yard field goal to give Virginia Tech a 22-20 lead with 2:19 left in the game, but Manuel led the Seminoles on a 8-play, 68-yard drive to paydirt. Manuel connected with Greene for six points and followed with a two-point conversion pass to Nick O’Leary.
Virginia Tech had the ball one last time, and moved the ball to the Florida State 40 on a 35-yard pass from Logan Thomas to Demitri Knowles, but Thomas was picked off on the next play by Tyler Hunter to secure the win.
The pressure is really on now for the Hokies. Virginia Tech (4-6, 2-4) has been to bowl games for 19 straight seasons. Unless the Hokies can win its final two games, that streak will end.
“I am proud of this team,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “We are experiencing some things this year we haven’t experienced around here in quite a while. It has never been a lack of effort, the kids have hung in there and battled.”
Virginia Tech, which was embarrassed in a 30-12 loss last Thursday at Miami, tried to rekindle some of its Thursday night magic to compensate for what has been a disappointing season. The Hokies out-gained the Seminoles 385-311, and held Florida State to a net total of -15 yards on the ground.
Yet, Florida State (9-1, 6-1) was able to move within a game of clinching the Atlantic Division. A win over Maryland next week will send the Seminoles to the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 1 in Charlotte, N.C.
Virgina Tech, which has dropped three straight games, will have to win at Boston College on Nov. 17 and beat Virginia on Nov. 24 or miss the postseason for the first time since 1993 when the Hokies were 2-8-1. That is also last time they had lost as many as six games in a season.
“I think going to Boston College this time of the year, that is going to be a challenge,” Beamer said. “We have to win to go to a bowl, but I will push our kids to battle again. You don’t know quite why things happen, but there has not been any quit in anyone in our program and we have another tough one coming up.”
Florida State, which led 13-10 at the half, built the lead to 20-10 in the third quarter when Marcus Davis was hit by Terrance Brooks after a reception and his fumble was recovered by Vince Williams at Virginia Tech’s 49.
Manuel, a native of Virginia Beach, was able to put together a six-play drive, with Manuel connecting with Greg Dent on a 10-yard scoring pass with 6:53 on the clock.
Virginia Tech narrowed the margin on its next possession on a 5-yard keeper by Thomas to cut the deficit to 20-17 with 2:54 left in the third period. That play culminated an 8-play, 80-yard drive, keyed by a 44-yard completion from Thomas to Corey Fuller. He also connected with Fuller on a 14-yard pass to move the ball inside the 10-yard line.
The Hokies were able to cut the margin to one, 20-19, with 6:59 left in the game when Florida State running back Devonta Freeman was hit in the end zone by Jack Tyler. In trying to get rid of the ball, he was called for making an illegal pass.
That was followed by 40-yard kick return by J.C. Coleman, and Thomas drove the Hokies on a 10-play drive that was stopped at the Florida State 4. Journell followed with the 21-yard field goal and the 22-20 lead.
Yet, Florida State took over and drove down the field, with Manuel and Greene combining on the deciding play.
Virginia Tech led 10-6 with 2:49 left in the opening half on a 4-yard touchdown pass by Thomas to Corey Fuller, but the Seminoles answered, with Manuel completing consecutive passes of 17, 22 and finally a 25-yard toss to Greene for the 13-10 lead with 48 seconds left on the clock.
Thomas converted passes of 33, 15 and 4 yards to Fuller to give the Hokies a brief lead in the second quarter.
The clubs traded field goals in the opening period, with Dustin Hopkins nailing a 52-yarder, while Journell, a product of Giles High School, answered with a 35-yarder of his own. That came after Thomas had scored on a 10-run earlier in the drive after a 55-yard completion to Marcus Davis, but the touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty on Vinston Painter.
Hopkins was able to convert a 45-yard field on the first play of the second quarter for the 6-3 lead. Hopkins was able to move within striking distance of former Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman for the most points by a kicker in FBS history.
Journell had an opportunity to tie the score at 6-6 with 11:32 on the clock, but missed from 43 yards.
Virginia Tech forced two turnovers in the opening half, an interception on a deflected pass at Donovan Riley inside the Hokies’ 5-yard line. Josh Trimble also recovered a fumble on a muffed punt. Hunter had a first half interception for the Seminoles.
The Hokies, which held a 162-161 advantage in total yards on the opening half, trailed 13-10 at the break. Virginia Tech, which held Florida State to negative-8 yards rushing in the opening half and -15 for the game, had 12 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Thomas was 19-of-34 for 298 yards, with Fuller catching seven passes for 124 yards. Virginia Tech had just 87 yards on the ground, led by Tony Gregory with 41. Manuel was 25-42 for 326 yards and three scores. Greene had six receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Florida State's leading rusher, Lonnie Pryor, had 22 yards.
Notes: Virginia Tech defensive back Michael Cole, a product of Cave Spring in Roanoke, was injured at the 12:33 mark in the third quarter, placed on a stretcher and transported to Lewis-Gale Hospital. The initial diagnosis was a neck sprain.
The Hokies dropped to 19-7 on Thursday night games, and 11-4 at Lane Stadium.
— Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org