An electrifying atmosphere, nationally recognized programs and a high scoring thriller is exactly what Charlotte was hoping for when the city became the host of the ACC Championship Game. Virginia Tech handled Florida State 44-33 to punch a ticket to the Orange Bowl.
FSU threw a curveball to start the game. Redshirt sophomore E.J. Manuel started the game at quarterback over senior Christian Ponder, who was still recovering from an elbow injury.
Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor had a statement play to open the fourth quarter. The ACC player of the year scrambled in the pocket then zigzagged left and right and walked the ball into the end zone. Chris Hazley’s extra point was blocked and returned for a two-point conversion, but the Hokies took a commanding lead, 41-26.
Taylor looked impressive after being honored as the ACC player of the year. He went 18-28 with 263 yards passing and three touchdowns to zero interceptions. He also added on 11 rushes for 24 yards and a touchdown.
The theme for this year’s Virginia Tech football team is to give up early points and eventually grind out a come-from-behind win. Against FSU, the Hokies gave up an opening drive field goal and saw their first offensive possession stall at midfield.
The second play of FSU’s second drive turned the momentum and Virginia Tech never looked back. Linebacker Bruce Taylor dove in front of a FSU receiver and tipped the ball to teammate Jeron Gouvia-Winslow, who intercepted the pass and returned it 24-yards to put Virginia Tech up 7-3.
Virginia Tech held FSU to a three-and-out and the offense got the ball, looking to make an early statement. Darren Evans reeled off a 51-yard run up the right side of the field. Evans then ran through the FSU defense for a 9-yard touchdown, putting the Hokies up 14-3.
Evans finished as Virginia Tech’s leading rusher, rushing six times for 69 yards and a touchdown.
FSU responded quickly with a six play, 68 yard drive that resulted in a touchdown, a key touchdown to keep the Seminoles in the game. Manuel threw for 61 yards to march his team down the field. Ty Jones ran for a two yard touchdown to pull the score to 14-10.
Virginia Tech padded their lead the following drive. Taylor orchestrated a 13 play, 91 yard drive that ended in a Jarrett Boykin 19 yard touchdown reception. Taylor completed seven passes on the drive and David Wilson was the featured running back, rushing five times for 13 yards and added two receptions for 17 yards.
Florida State refused to back down. Their next drive saw Jones rush for a six yard touchdown, his second of the game. Jones finished the 78 yard drive, rushing three straight times for 20 yards. FSU kept the game interesting going into halftime trailing 21-17.
Virginia Tech opened the third quarter with a seven play, 67 yard drive. Taylor and Danny Coale hooked up twice for 59 yards—Coales second reception went 45 yards for a touchdown, giving the Hokies a commanding 28-17 lead.
Coale was named the game’s MVP with six receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown. The receiver was running free down the middle of the field and proved to be a very easy target for Taylor, making things easy for the quarterback’s last ACC game.
A three-and-out forced by Virginia Tech’s defense put Virginia Tech in the driver’s seat for a heartbreaking drive against the Seminoles. Taylor hit Wilson for a 21 yard touchdown pass to cap off a nine play, 61 yard drive to put the Hokies up 35-17.
Wilson was the most productive of the Hokie’s potent backfield. He rushed 14 times for 43 yards. He added four receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. His counterpart homerun threat, Ryan Williams, rushed 11 times for 45 yards and had one reception for five yards.
FSU refused to roll over. Jones’ one yard touchdown run capped off an eight play, 53 yard drive to keep things interesting at 35-24. Manuel marched his team down the field to set up Jones’ third rushing touchdown of the game.
Taylor’s rushing touchdown put the Hokies in a comfortable position to win the game. A Chris Hazley 43 yard field goal put the Hokies up 44-26. Virginia Tech gave up a touchdown with seven seconds remaining, but were able to recover the onside kick and see the ACC player of the year kneel the ball in victory formation.
Virginia Tech won their 11th straight game, after starting the season with two straight losses. It appears as though the team is finally playing up to its pre-season potential and should be a tough opponent in the Orange Bowl.
Virginia Tech’s win shows a sign of times changing in the ACC. They now are the team to beat, Miami and FSU will always be regarded as the national profile teams, but Virginia Tech as proved time and time again that the ACC title goes through Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech finds out their final opponent of the season Sunday night when the final BCS standings are released. Early thoughts are that the Orange Bowl will likely try to lure Stanford all the way to Miami or they will go the traditional rout and invited Big East Champion Connecticut. Whoever Virginia Tech faces will have their hands full, as Virginia Tech refused to lay down after an abysmal start to the season. Virginia Tech finished the season looking to prove they were as good as their pre-season hype and have one more game to prove themselves.