The Hokies played toe-to-toe with the No. 10 ranked Seminoles for four quarters, but (and stop me if you've heard this before) the Hokies did not take advantage of their opportunities, turning two Florida State turnovers into zero points, whereas the Seminoles took three Virginia Tech turnovers for 10 points and the game-sealing interception.
The Hokies won the toss and deferred in the first half, kicking the ball to the 'Noles, who converted a key 3rd down play and picked up 48 yards on the drive before settling for a 52-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal. Highlights on the drive included an Antone Exum pass interference penalty, a FSU fumble on the 3rd down conversion which they recovered and the Hokies showing that they were going to be blitzing, putting pressure on E.J. Manuel early, and picking up a sack.
On their first drive, the Hokies marched 60 yards on eight plays, but stalled at the 10 after a Logan Thomas touchdown run was called back for a questionable holding call that occurred behind the play, and settled for a field goal to knot it at 3. After a 42-yard return set the 'Noles up with excellent starting field position at the 50, E.J. Manuel found Greg Dent on 1st down for 41-yards down to the Tech 9-yard line. Three plays later though, a poorly thrown ball by Manuel was tipped and resulted in Donovan Riley's first career interception for the Hokies.
Starting from their own 6, the Hokies failed to move the ball after Logan Thomas criminally overthrew a wide open Kevin Asante on a slant pass for a first down. The miss resulted in a 3-and-out. After Tech's defense hung strong on the next Florida State possession, forcing a 3-and-out of their own, Logan Thomas hit Tyler Hunter right in the numbers on the Hokies' first play. The only problem is, Tyler Hunter plays for the Seminoles.
Despite setting the 'Noles up with premium field position (the Hokies 34-yard line) once again, Tech forced the Seminoles into a field goal, which Dustin Hopkins proceeded to hit to make it 6-3 in favor of the visitors. The Hokies were forced into a 3-and-out again after another phantom J.C. Coleman run up the middle on 3rd-and-1 call, but on the punt return, Florida State's Tyler Hunter muffed the catch, and Josh Trimble picked it up to put the Hokies in business at the Seminoles' 30. Er, that is, if this was another team, as the Hokies gained four yards in three plays and the Cody Journell field goal attempt from 43-yards was missed. Another opponent turnover, no Tech points. See a theme here? Journell's missed field goal prompted this from the Hokie bird, but really that could've been for the entire game, season, the offense, the coaching staff, you name it. Thanks to the guys at SB Nation GIF for coming up with that one.
After a Florida State 3-and-out, and successive 3-and-outs by both teams, Tech took over at their own 32-yard line and put together a 9-play 68-yard drive that featured three catches by Corey Fuller for 52 yards and a touchdown on a 3rd-and-2 throw from the 4-yard line to make it 10-6 in favor of the Hokies. The Seminoles however, responded with a quick 5-play 71-yard drive that saw All-ACC cornerback from a year ago, Kyle Fuller, get juked out of his shoes on successive plays, including the 25-yard pass from Manuel to Rashad Greene that gave the advantage back to the 'Noles 13-10 right before halftime.
In the second half, the Hokies started with one 1st down and a 3-and-out. Luckily, the Seminoles suffered the same fate after moving the chains once. However, on the play that netted the 'Noles the first down, the Hokies Michael Cole went down after a jarring hit on Lonnie Pryor, and stayed down on the field for nine minutes while trainers and EMT's attended to him on a field. It was a scary scene, as the crowd fell silent, and Cole lay motionless, on his stomach for a few minutes, before they taped him to a stretcher (literally), cut his facemask off, wrapped him in a blanket and put him on an ambulance. The early reports are that it was a neck sprain, and those measures were just precautionary, and he is able to move and feel all of his extremities.
Tech took over when the 'Noles stalled and were forced to punt, and moved the ball to midfield, where a play eerily similar to the non-fumble that was a fumble at Clemson occurred. Marcus Davis caught a ball from Logan Thomas on 2nd down, and as he ran across the field trying to get extra yardage, he was holding the ball loosely and it came out right before/as/around when he hit the turf. It was reviewed and upheld as a fumble. I think the officials got it right, but that was NOT ruled a fumble in the Clemson game, when it was even more concrete. I think the officials did the right thing also by letting the play run even if they thought it was down, calling a fumble on the field, and then reviewing it. That's the way officials are taught to do it. After all, you can always award possession and a return before and take it back, but you can't do the opposite. The point is, the ACC badly needs consistency and the gumption to say that one of those calls was incorrect, as it is impossible that they both were.
The Seminoles struck quickly, this time on a 10-yard post pass from Manuel to Greg Dent to cap a 6-play 49-yard drive, putting the 'Noles up 20-10. But the Hokies never quit, going 80 yards on an 8-play drive capped off by a 5-yard Logan Thomas rushing touchdown to put the Hokies down 3, 20-17 late in the third. Both teams suffered three-and-outs on each of their next two possessions, before the Seminoles, faced with a 3rd-and-25 at their own 5-yard line called an outside running play from deep in their backfield, and the Hokies Jack Tyler closed in on Devonta Freeman in the end zone for a safety to make it 20-19 Seminoles. Freeman actually tried to throw the ball out of the end zone, a risky decision considering it could have very well been called a fumble, but it was ruled an illegal forward pass, giving the Hokies two points and the ball.
With under seven minutes remaining, knowing they needed another score and with momentum on their side, Tech marched the ball down the field, methodically picking up medium-yardage, until they got to the FSU 13-yard line, where they began to quazi-run the clock (leaving as much as 15 seconds on the play clock). It was a display of terrible clock management, as the Hokies either kept themselves from getting more time on their last possession, or gave the Seminoles more time depending on how it would have played out. At any rate, they were unable to pick up a first down, and on 4th-and-1 at the FSU 4-yard line, opted to kick a 21-yard field goal to make it 22-20 in favor of the Hokies with 2:19 remaining.
The Seminoles got the ball at the 32-yard line after a good return, and in eight plays, were able to score a touchdown, this time on a 39-yard slant pass from Manuel to Rashad Greene. Several Hokies assumed their teammates would take him down and took poor angles to the ball as Greene ran all the way across the field. The play also may have featured an illegal block that sprung him for the catch. At any rate, after a 2-point conversion, the 'Noles led 28-22 with just 40 ticks remaining. On 1st down, Thomas found Demitri Knowles streaking down the right sideline wide open like Danny Coale against Nebraska, for a 35-yard gain. The play was reviewed, but upheld given the lack of evidence to overturn the call. But on the very next play, Thomas badly underthrew Corey Fuller on a slant pattern, and threw the ball right into the numbers of Tyler Hunter again, ending the game.
While the snowballing continues for the Hokies, there are things to take from this game. The defense once again was dominant, holding the Seminoles to -15 yards rushing and tallying five sacks. The offense also looked much improved despite the turnovers, and the play-calling was worlds better. This is one of the first times this season I can say the Hokies got an unlucky bounce. It was the kind of game the team with the ball last would win (not counting the last :40 the Hokies could've had the ball). The players showed max effort, hung in there, and made a real game out of a match up with a team that is in the top-10 and almost everyone thought the Hokies would lose at the beginning of the year anyway. So this game alone didn't do anything to ruin our season, muddy our reputation or kill our program.
The Hokies must win their two remaining games to be eligible to play in a bowl game, a streak that has reached two decades. They face Boston College in Chesnut Hill two weeks from now, before returning home to play in-state rival Virginia on Nov. 24.
For more Virginia Tech football and basketball coverage (as the season is just around the bend), keep checking back with us here at Gobbler Country.