For a brief moment, it looked like Virginia Tech was going to salvage its season with a big win over a top-ten team Thursday night. But as has been the case several times previously, it was only an illusion.
Florida State junior quarterback E.J. Manuel connected with Rashad Greene on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds remaining to defeat the Hokies 28-22. Virginia Tech had taken a two-point lead with 2:19 left on a Cody Journell field goal, but ultimately suffered their fifth loss in six games.
"It's heartbreaking, you never want to lose like that," Virginia Tech corner Antone Exum said after the game. "It's very disappointing."
The loss hurts all the more knowing that Virginia Tech must win its remaining two games in order to be bowl-eligible. Manuel's third touchdown pass put a dagger in a packed Lane Stadium that was certainly prepared for the Thursday night thriller.
"I want to thank our fans for hanging in there with us and trying hard," head coach Frank Beamer said. "We just couldn't get it done for them."
Right from the get-go, all signs pointed to this one being a close battle. The Seminoles opened with a Dustin Hopkins 52-yard field goal, but the Hokies answered on their first drive with a Journell 35-yarder.
The teams exchanged punts for the rest of the quarter, but Florida State took a 6-3 lead thanks to another Hopkins field goal to open the second frame.
Later in the quarter, the Hokies put together a beautiful nine-play, 68-yard drive to take a 14-10 lead thanks to a 4-yard Logan Thomas pass to Corey Fuller. However, the Seminoles wasted no time retaking the lead before the half was over.
Moving the ball methodically for the first time all half, Manuel found Greene for a 25-yard touchdown with just 48 seconds remaining. While the Seminoles had a 14-10 halftime lead, the Hokies had proven they had come to play. The Seminoles had -3 yards rushing in the first half, and ended with -15.
"The defense really had their moments," Beamer added. "They are one of those teams that you have to have pressure against and we did a good job most of the night."
The Seminoles widened their lead midway through the third quarter on a Greg Dent 10-yard touchdown catch to make it 20-10. However, the Hokies answered just four minutes later with an 80-yard drive capped by a Thomas five-yard run.
During the third quarter, free safety Michael Cole was taken off the field in an ambulance due to a neck injury. Mike Goforth, head athletic trainer, said that Cole suffered a cervical neck sprain. He was transferred to the hospital for further testing, but his CT scan was negative and will be sent home tonight. Our prayers certainly are extended to Cole and his family.
As the game entered the fourth quarter, it was pretty clear it was anybody's ballgame.
Down three points with seven minutes remaining, the Hokie defense provided the ultimate spark: a safety. Jack Tyler tackled the Seminole runner in the endzone, who attempted to pitch the ball forward. Suddenly, Virginia Tech had a golden opportunity to take a lead in the final minutes.
Thanks to two huge third down conversions, the Hokies moved the ball down to the four-yard line to set up Journell's big kick.
However, that only delayed the stomach-turning finish for Hokie fans.
"To come out of here with a victory on a Thursday night at Lane Stadium shows a lot of character in our football team," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Virginia Tech, they played a heckuva ballgame."
Unfortunately that doesn't offer much consolation for the Hokies or their fans. Virginia Tech drops to 4-6 on the year while FSU improves to 9-1. The Hokies head to Boston College next week before finishing up with UVA.