Nov. 9, 2012
By: Brandon Mellor (@BrandonMellor), Seminoles.com Managing Editor
Next: Nov. 17 at Maryland
Next: Nov. 17 at Boston College
Lane Stadium // Attendance: 65,632
FSU PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sophomore // Wide Receiver
The speedy sophomore had easily his best game of 2012 as Rashad Greene hauled in two touchdowns, including the eventual game-winner with just 39 seconds left.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
One more ACC victory and Florida State will earn a trip to the league title game in Charlotte next month.
Tyler Hunter had just one career interception prior to Thursday (he took one away at Miami) but had two on the night, including the game-sealer.
Corey Fuller's 124 yards ended a 17-game streak in which had not allowed an opposing receiver to register at least 100 yards.
FSU is 9-1 for the first time since the 2000 season.
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- When No. 6/8 Florida State needed them most, a pair of sophomores came to the rescue Thursday night in a come-from-behind, season-saving 28-22 victory at Virginia Tech.
The former, FSU's (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) most dangerous offensive weapon, exploded for a 39-yard lead-capturing catch-and-run from EJ Manuel with just 40 seconds left at daunting Lane Stadium. The latter, FSU's talented nickel cornerback, then sealed it with his interception -- his second of the game -- off a Logan Thomas toss with just 27 seconds remaining on the game clock.
"A lot of people probably thought the game was over, but we knew within ourselves that we were going to win that game," Greene said. "I looked at EJ, he looked at me and I told him we weren't going to lose."
With the win, the Seminoles moved to 9-1 for the first time since 2000 and ended an 0-2 streak under Fisher after a bye week. It also set up the opportunity for FSU to officially clinch a trip to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte with a win next Saturday at Maryland.
Florida State needed the collective heroics of Hunter and Greene because of a near late-game meltdown. First the Hokies (4-6, 2-4), winners of 11 of 14 Thursday-night games at home before FSU came to town, registered a safety with 6:59 remaining to cut the 'Noles' lead to 20-19. Then Virginia Tech followed it up with a 4:38 drive that ended with a 21-yard Cody Journell field goal with just 2:19 left.
But Manuel, who had been sacked five times by the rabid Hokies defense after FSU had allowed just 13 quarterback takedowns all season, didn't need that much time. Playing in his first game as a college player in his home state, Manuel threw his first game-winning touchdown on a final drive of his career four plays after James Wilder, Jr.'s critical seven-yard run on fourth-and-one.
"To finally be a part of something like that, just to see my guys go out there and do it," Manuel said, "nobody was flustered, nobody was afraid. We all understood what we needed to get done."
Manuel finished the night 25-of-42 for 326 yards and three touchdowns for an offense that had its fourth-worst rushing performance in school history with minus-15 yards on 25 attempts. Greene helped ease that deficiency with his two scores and 125 yards on six catches. Greg Dent also had four catches for 73 yard and one touchdown.
Senior kicker Dustin Hopkins finished the game with nine points to move within three of tying the NCAA's all-time scoring mark among kickers.
Defensively, Cornellius Carradine led the way with a game-high 11 tackles and one sack. Christian Jones also added nine stops and Demonte McAllister had 1 1/2 tackles for loss. Tyler Hunter's two interceptions were a career high in a game.
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas was 9-1 as a starter at Lane Stadium before facing off against Florida State and was able to throw for 298 yards and touchdown while rushing for another. Virginia Tech's Corey Fuller became the first player since Wake Forest's Chris Givens 17 games ago to register at least 100 yards receiving against the vaunted Seminoles' defense.
Fuller finished with seven grabs for 124 yards and a touchdown for a Hokies team that was held to 6-of-16 on third-down conversions.
"These kids believe," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We may not always play well, but man there are some good football players on this team."
Florida State opened the game with a 52-yard field goal by Hopkins before the Hokies did the same on their first drive thanks to a 34-yarder on the heels of a 54-yard pass play from Thomas to Andre Davis into the redzone.
The long ball ended a 218-consecutive-passes streak since the last time the FSU defense gave up a pass play of at least 50 yards.
A 42-yard Lamarcus Joyner kick return and 41-yard Dent reception later, FSU quickly found itself on the nine hard-line on the next drive. But on 3rd-and-goal, Manuel's pass hit off the tip of Nick O'Leary's fingers and was intercepted on the goal line. After back-to-back three-and-outs from both teams and a Hunter interception that put the Seminoles on the Hokies' 34 yard-line but Manuel was sacked on third down and Hopkins had to hit a 45-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to put FSU up 6-3.
Virginia Tech had an opportunity eliminate the deficit a few plays later as Hunter's muffed punt following another forced three-and-out put the ball on the FSU 31 yard-line. But the 43-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game sailed wide left with 11:32 left in the second quarter.
Virginia Tech would later register the game's first touchdown on the end of a 68-yard drive that featured three third-down conversion against the nation's best defense at forcing fourth downs. The scoring play occurred on a four-yard fade from Thomas to Fuller for a 10-6 score with 2:49 left in the first half.
It would be a short-lived lead, though. Manuel found his groove on the ensuing drive and after two first-down tosses to Kelvin Benjamin, lofted a perfect ball to Greene for a 25-yard touchdown to recapture the lead, 13-10, with less than a minute in the second quarter.
Midway through the the third quarter, FSU's advantage moved to two scores. After Vince Williams' forced fumble gave the Seminoles a short field to work with, Manuel went to work finding Wilder, Jr. and Kenny Shaw on pass plays and then hit Dent for a 10-yard score to make it a 20-10 game.
If it seemed to the home crowd like the Hokies were out of it following that play, Thomas had other ideas. His eight-play, 80-yard drive on the ensuing possession culminated with his own bulldozing run up the middle for a lead-cutting score with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter.
With a little less than seven minutes to play in the final period, Virginia Tech cut further into the deficit in an unorthodox way. Backed up on his own goal line, FSU tailback Devona Freeman was flagged for an illegal pass in the endzone and the play resulted in a safety. On the resulting Hokies drive after the two-point play, the chip-shot field goal because of a goal-line defensive stand put FSU briefly up against the wall before the Manuel-to-Greene memorable connection and consequent O'Leary two-point conversion grab.
Florida State's ACC finale at Maryland is next Saturday. Kick-time for that game will be announced Monday afternoon.