Dec. 4, 2010
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com
CHARLOTTE, NC - On a cold and rainy Saturday night in Charlotte, the No. 21 Florida State football team's dreams of a league title came to an end with a 44-33 defeat at the hands of No. 15 Virginia Tech in the 2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game.
With the loss, FSU (9-4) will now play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 against SEC runner-up South Carolina. The Hokies (11-2) in turn will head to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, 2011 to play at-large bid Stanford.
Without the services of starter Christian Ponder, who was held out with lingering effects of an ongoing elbow injury, the Seminoles relied on the right arm of redshirt sophomore signal caller EJ Manuel.
No stranger to the pressure that comes with playing under the lights of a big game, Manuel finished the night with 288 yards on 23-for-31 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Unfortunately for the 'Noles, his counterpart under center for Virginia Tech, Tyrod Taylor, showed the nation why he was voted the ACC's Player of the Year. Taylor finished the night with an MVP performance on 18-of-28 passing for 263 yards with three scores and no turnovers.
The other difference in the ballgame? Third-down conversions.
The Hokies converted on a staggering 13-of-18 third downs and seemed to turn nearly all of them into either long gains or long scores.
In addition to Manuel's work at the helm of the offense, junior tailback Ty Jones notched a career-best three touchdown runs. Sophomore kicker Dustin Hopkins also added a 32-yard field goal and junior linebacker Nigel Bradham tallied two points after taking a blocked extra-point all the way to the house in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore tailback Chris Thompson also nabbed a scoring catch of 20 yards in the final seconds of the game.
Remarkably, the Seminoles didn't commit a single penalty all evening long.
Florida State found itself in an early 14-3 hole in the first quarter.
The Hokies had scored touchdowns on an interception return off a lucky bounce and then quick offensive drive that featured a long Darren Evans run.
But FSU answered when Manuel completed back-to-back passes to Easterling for a combined 27 yards and then found Haulstead on a 34-yard pitch and catch to Haulstead down the sideline.
One play later, Jones burst through the middle and over the goal line to cut the deficit to 14-10 late in the first period.
Just as fast as the 'Noles had scored, however, the Hokies retaliated with a steady scoring drive to start the second quarter.
After Taylor then found Jarrett Boykin on a 19-yard touchdown pass that pushed VT's advantage to 21-10, Jones once again ended a successful Seminole drive. Before Jones bounced into the endzone with 5:28 left in the first half, FSU had marched 63 yards on just five snaps.
And while Jones would later add his third score of the game late in the quarter, the Hokies simply proved to be too much and outscored the Seminoles 23-16 in the second half, including Thompson's late FSU score.