Taylor Leads Hokies to ACC Championship in Charlotte

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Florida State (20) ..  10  7  7  9 - 33
Virginia Tech (12)...  14  7 14  9 - 44

Scoring Summary:

1st Quarter
11:43 FS - Hopkins 32 yd FG
08:05 VT - Gouveia-Winslow 24 yd INT return (Hazley kick)
04:37 VT - Evans 9 yd run (Hazley)
01:59 FS - Jones 2 yd run (Hopkins kick)

2nd Quarter
10:34 VT - Boykin 19 yd pass from Taylor (Hazley)
05:48 FS - Jones 6 yd run (Hopkins)

3rd Quarter
11:29 VT - Coale 45 yd pass from Taylor (Hazley)
04:43 VT - Wilson 21 yd pass from Taylor (Hazley)
01:44 FS - Jones 1 yd run (Hopkins)

4th Quarter
11:29 VT - Taylor 5 yd run (kick blocked)
11:29 FS - Bradham PAT return for 2 points
06:58 VT - Hazley 43 yd FG
00:07 VA - Thompson 20 yd pass from Manuel (Hopkins)

Charlotte, NC – Virginia Tech got a great performance from quarterback Tyrod Taylor and two critical fourth down stops by their defense in the second half, and beat #20 Florida State 44-33 for the ACC Championship on Saturday night in Charlotte. The Hokies are 11-2 on the year, finishing with a perfect 9-0 record in the ACC while tying the the school record for wins in a season. Tech will now play in the Orange Bowl for the third time in four years.

Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech offense controlled this game from start to finish. The Hokies finished with 442 yards of total offense, and Taylor was exceptional. He was 18-of-28 for 263 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. He also had a rushing touchdown. Florida State had no answer for him all night.

The Tech offense controlled the ball for each of the last three quarters. Florida State had the ball for just 5:28 in the second quarter, 5:01 in the third quarter and 5:29 in the fourth quarter. For the game, the Hokies won the time of possession battle 35:01 to 24:59. They were 13-of-18 on third downs, and at one point in the second half they were 11-of-13.

Florida State started r-sophomore Virginia native E.J. Manuel at quarterback. Christian Ponder missed the game with an elbow injury. Manuel played well, going 23-of-31 for 288 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. One of his interceptions was returned for a touchdown by Jeron Gouveia-Winslow thanks to a great play by Bruce Taylor, who laid out and deflected the pass in the air.

Though stopping Manuel and the impressive Florida State passing game was difficult, the Hokies had no trouble stopping the run. The ‘Noles had just 53 yards on the ground in this game, and averaged only 1.9 yards per carry.

Tech won this game despite injuries to both starting inside linebackers. Bruce Taylor only played the first quarter before suffering a shoulder injury and giving way to r-freshman Jack Tyler. Tyler had a great game, finishing with seven tackles and three tackles for loss. Lyndell Gibson also hurt his shoulder, and r-freshman Tariq Edwards played the entire second half at backer.

True freshman cornerback Kyle Fuller started the game in place of Rashad Carmichael, who is battling a high ankle sprain. Fuller struggled with the athletic Florida State receivers, and Carmichael took over in the second half. Tech’s defense was much better over the final 30 minutes as a result.

The Hokies also rushed for 179 yards against FSU. Darren Evans had six carries for 69 yards and a touchdown, including a big 51 yard run in the first quarter. Ryan Williams finished with 11 carries for 49 yards, and David Wilson had 14 carries for 43 yards. Wilson also had a big day through the air, catching four passes for 44 yards, including a 21 yard touchdown reception on a wheel route.

Danny Coale had a huge game against the Florida State secondary, which gave up a lot of big plays during the regular season. Coale had six catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. Jarrett Boykin added three receptions for 35 yards and a score.

The game was close at halftime, with the Hokies holding a 21-17 lead. However, Tyrod Taylor dominated the second half, and the Hokies led by as much as 44-26 before Florida State scored a garbage time touchdown against Tech’s backup defense with just seven seconds remaining.

With the win, Tech will now head to the Orange Bowl, where their likely opponent will be either Big East Champion UConn, or Pac-10 at-large Stanford.

Recap

This game started just like all of Virginia Tech’s other big games this year – with the other team scoring first. E.J. Manuel hit Taiwan Easterling for a 29 yard gain on the first play of the game, and the ‘Noles drove all the way to the Tech 14 before Manuel’s pass to Easterling in the back of the end zone was broken up by Eddie Whitley. FSU nailed the short field goal to go up 3-0.

The Hokies took over and drove it to the FSU 49 before being forced to punt. That’s when the Tech defense stepped up with the first big play of the game.

On second and six from his own 20, E.J. Manuel dropped back to pass. He looked short to the left and dropped it off to a receiver who was crossing the field. Mike linebacker Bruce Taylor made a great diving deflection of the ball, which fell right into the hands of whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow. Gouveia-Winslow, who struggled early in the season but who has been playing well recently, returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to put the Hokies up 7-3 with 8:05 left in the first quarter.

Florida State went three and out on their next possession, thanks in part to a second down sack by Steven Friday. After a 44 yard punt, the Hokies took over on their own 35, and the Tech offense started to get cranked up.

After a first down screen pass to Ryan Williams went for a five yard gain, the Hokies ran the read option right up the middle. The defensive end played contain on Tyrod Taylor, and the rest of the FSU defense was blown off the ball. Darren Evans took the handoff, ran up the middle for a big gain, and then cut it outside and went down the right sideline for a huge 51 yard gain. On the next play, Evans went right up the middle again for a nine yard touchdown, bouncing off a tackle attempt by FSU linebacker Mister Alexander in the process. Tech led 14-3 with 4:37 remaining in the first quarter.

Not about to go away quietly in such a big game, Florida State went after true freshman cornerback Kyle Fuller on the next possession. Fuller bit on a hitch by wide receiver Willie Haulstead, but Haulstead ran the hitch and go right by Fuller for a 34 yard gain to the Tech two, and Ty Jones punched it in from there. With 1:59 left in the first quarter, the Hokies led 14-10.

It was a high-scoring first quarter, and the fireworks were just beginning. The Hokies got called for an illegal block on the ensuing kickoff and had to start the drive from their own nine. They responded by driving 91 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown.

Tyrod Taylor completed three critical third down passes on the drive. His first was a 28 yarder to Danny Coale on third and 13, and the second was a beautiful lob over the head of the FSU defense to David Wilson for a 10 yard gain on third and four. Three plays later, facing third and five from the FSU 19, Taylor bought time and rolled to his left, and then found Jarrett Boykin in the front corner of the end zone for a 19 yard touchdown pass. That put Tech up 21-10 with 10:34 left in the second quarter.

Back quickly came the ‘Noles, led by the arm of E.J. Manuel. He hit two more big passes to Willie Haustead, one for 14 yards and another for 25 yards, and then Ty Jones scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from six yards out, to make make the score 21-17. That score stood up until halftime.

Tyrod Taylor came out firing in the second half, leading the Hokies on a touchdown drive that was bookended by receptions by Danny Coale. Coale caught a 14 yarder to start the drive, and after a big nine yard completion on third and eight to Marcus Davis, Taylor found Coale again wide open behind the Florida State defense. Coale hauled in the pass and beat the FSU defense to the end zone, putting his team up 28-17.

Florida State went three and out on their next drive, and the Hokies took over at their own 39. The offense continued to impose their will on the Florida State defense, going on yet another touchdown drive. After a magnificent run by Tyrod Taylor gained 12 yards on the first play of the drive, it became the David Wilson show. Wilson had four straight carries, and after an eight yard completion to Jarrett Boykin, Wilson caught two passes of his own.

The second catch by Wilson was the big one. He slipped behind the FSU defense down the right sideline on a wheel route, just like he did last week against UVA. Tyrod Taylor hit him perfectly in stride, and Wilson scored from 21 yards out to put the Hokies up 35-17 with 4:43 left in the third quarter. At that point in the quarter, the Hokies had scored two touchdowns, while the ‘Noles had run just three plays.

Florida State got it going on special teams, returning the kickoff to their own 47. Manuel then found Bert Reed for an 18 yard gain on third and 12, and later Jayron Hosley was flagged for a pass interference call inside the Tech 10. Ty Jones was later able to complete the hat trick, scoring his third touchdown of the game, this time from one yard out. With 1:44 left in the third quarter, it was 35-24 Virginia Tech.

Tyrod Taylor did it again on the next drive, coming up with huge plays on third down. First he hit Danny Coale for a 46 yard gain on third and nine to the FSU six on a play similar to Coale’s long touchdown against Miami. Later Taylor ran it in himself on third and goal from the FSU five. However, the drama wasn’t quite complete, as the extra point was blocked and returned for two points by Florida State. The Hokies led 41-26 with 11:29 left, and it was still a two possession game.

Things began to come apart for Florida State on their next drive. They faced a fourth and four at their own 48, and they elected to go for it. The ‘Noles were a perfect 6-of-6 on fourth downs this year, but it didn’t work against the Hokies. Manuel’s pass over the middle was overthrown and intercepted by Davon Morgan, who returned it to the Florida State 34. Morgan was injured on the play, and gave way to r-freshman James Hopper for the rest of the game.

The Hokies ran the ball three straight times on their next possession, but failed to pick up a first down. They settled for a 43 yard field goal from Chris Hazley, who made the kick with just a few yards to spare. Hazley has now connected on 20 consecutive field goals, and he’s 20-of-21 for the season. Tech led 44-26 with that field goal, a three-possession lead.

Florida State took over on their own 36, and then faced a fourth and one from their own 45. They had no choice but to go for it, and they tried a zone stretch to the left. John Graves plowed through the Florida State offensive line and brought tailback Chris Thompson down for a no gain, ending the drive and any chances of a Florida State comeback.

The Hokies spent the next few minutes running clock, and later a Florida State touchdown against Tech’s backup defense with seven seconds remaining ended the scoring. Virginia Tech won the ACC for the fourth time in seven years by beating Florida State 44-33.

We’ll find out Tech’s opponent for the Orange Bowl during the BCS Selection Show at 8:15pm on Sunday night. The show will be televised by ESPN. The Orange Bowl will be at 8pm on January 3 on ESPN.


STATISTICS

                         FSU          VT
                         ----        ----
First downs               19          21
Rushed-yards           28-53      43-179
Passing yards            288         263
Sacked-yards lost        1-3         3-6
Return yards             183         100
Passes               23-32-2     18-28-0
Punts                   2-42      2-36.5
Fumbles-lost             2-0         0-0
Penalties-yards          0-0        4-36
Time of possession     24:59       35:01
Att: 72,379

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 

RUSHING-Virginia Tech, Evans 6-69, Williams 11-45,
Wilson 14-43, Taylor 11-24, TEAM 1-(-2). FSU, Jones 6-24,
Thompson 8-12, Reed 2-10, Manuel 11-9, TEAM 1-(-2).

PASSING-Virginia Tech, Taylor 18-28-263-0.
FSU, Manuel 23-31-288-2, TEAM 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING-Virginia Tech, Coale 6-143, Wilson 4-42,
Boykin 3-35, Smith 2-23, Davis 2-15, Williams 1-5.  FSU,
Easterling 6-79, Thompson 5-25, Haulstead 3-73, Reed 3-42,
Smith 3-28, Reliford 2-27, Pryor 1-14.
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