BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech played one of its best all-around games of the season, but Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene with 40 seconds left to lift the No. 8-ranked Seminoles over the Hokies 28-22 in an ACC game played Thursday night at Lane Stadium.
With the loss, the Hokies fell to 4-6 overall on the season, 2-4 in the ACC. Tech now must win its final two games of the regular season – at BC and home versus in-state rival Virginia – to extend its streak of bowl appearance to 20 consecutive.
In contrast to other losses, this one was bitter for the Hokies, who outplayed Florida State (9-1, 6-1 ACC) for much of the evening. Tech amassed 385 yards against the nation’s No. 1-ranked defense (total defense, 227.1 ypg), and the Hokies held the Seminoles to just 311 yards after Florida State came in ranked seventh nationally in total offense (524.6 ypg). Tech sacked Manuel five times and intercepted him once, but the Seminoles made the plays down the stretch to win.
“Defensively, we had our moments,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “We just gave up a drive at the end of the first half and a drive at the end of the game. We played our hearts. But they have good players and they made some plays. Part of it was us and part of it was them.
“Offensively, we had some big plays. We probably had more big plays against Florida State than any team they’ve played. I thought our kids battled and hung in there. I’m proud of them.”
Tech appeared poised for the upset. With 6:51 left in the game, the Hokies marched all the way to the FSU 6. But on third-and-3, quarterback Logan Thomas came up a yard short, and Tech settled for a 21-yard field goal by Cody Journell that gave it a 22-20 lead with just 2:19 remaining.
Unfortunately for the Hokies, they left too much time on the clock. Taking over at its 32, Florida State, led by Manuel, marched into Tech territory, getting to the Tech 39 after a 13-yard pass from Manuel to Greg Dent. On the next play, Manuel found Greene on a slant, and Greene sprinted all the way across the field and down the sideline into the end zone for the touchdown with 40 seconds left.
“We had a little mix-up in the coverage,” Tech defensive back Antone Exum said. “They picked us off [ran a pick play in which a receiver ‘rubs’ off a Tech defensive back], and then they had a guy running free over the middle.
“It’s pretty obvious how we felt [after the game]. It [the loss] hurt.”
“We talked about taking more time off the clock [on Tech’s drive], but I didn’t want to interfere with the rhythm,” Beamer said. “I was hoping to score a touchdown. You want as little time as possible. But if we pick up the first down [on third-and-3], then we could take some more time off the clock. We just didn’t get it done, though.”
The Hokies got the ball back with one final opportunity. A 35-yard completion from Thomas to Demitri Knowles got the Hokies to the Florida State 40 with 33 seconds left. But on the next play, Thomas and Corey Fuller weren’t on the same page, and FSU’s Tyler Hunter picked off Thomas’ pass with 27 seconds left. The Seminoles then ran out the clock for the win.
“I thought he [Fuller] was going to hook it and come down a little more,” Thomas said. “He curled to the inside. I’ll take the blame for it. I’m supposed to read him.”
The Hokies appeared to be in deep trouble midway through the third quarter when Manuel completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Dent to give the Seminoles a 20-10 lead. But Tech answered with an 80-play drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown run by Thomas with 2:54 left in the third quarter that cut the lead to 20-17.
Midway though the fourth quarter, the Hokies sliced the lead even more. Mike linebacker Jack Tyler tackled Devonta Freeman in the end zone, and Freeman then threw the ball forward. The illegal forward pass resulted in a Tech safety, which made the score 20-19 with 6:59 left and set up the final few minutes.
Despite getting harassed most of the night, Manuel completed 25 of 42 passes for 326 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. Greene caught six passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. They accounted for nearly all of the offense, as Tech held the Seminoles to minus-15 yards rushing.
Thomas paced the Hokies, completing 19 of 34 for 298 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions, and he also rushed for 13 yards and a touchdown. His lone touchdown pass came on a beautiful 4-yard fade pattern to Fuller, who caught seven passes for 124 yards.
The Hokies now hit the road for their final road game of the season. They travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., for a conference game against the Eagles. The kickoff time will be announced Monday.
“You’ve got to battle back,” Beamer said. “We’ve been good about that, and we’ve got to do it again. You’re coming off a tough loss like this, and you’ve got to go to Boston College. It’ll be colder than heck. So we’ve got to be physically tough and mentally tough. We’ve got to battle back.”
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