While the scoreboard is perhaps the only statistic that matters, it's hard to deny that the result is due to a combination of smaller stats and trends within the game. Some stats have a direct correlation to the final score, others don't tell the entire story, and there are some that just flat-out don't make sense.
As many of you noticed in the live chat, I'm extremely passionate about stats. In my column debut, I'll be breaking down all the numbers from the Florida State battle. Those stats will be filtered through five categories, and will give you a different outlook of how Florida State defeated the Hokies 28-22.
WHY FLORIDA STATE WON
The Hokie defense produced a great performance, but it's tough to win when FSU junior quarterback E.J. Manuel throws three touchdown passes. Manuel was also able to beat the secondary for five twenty-plus yard passes, including four to sophomore wide receiver Rashad Greene. That's just not acceptable for a Bud Foster defense.
Five penalties seems like a lot, but the Seminoles only lost a total 26 yards on those infractions. The crowd was able to force a few procedure penalties, but ultimately Florida State played a very disciplined ballgame.
The Seminole defense was able to force three turnovers, including a game-ending interception of junior quarterback Logan Thomas at the 33-yard line. Of the two turnovers before the aforementioned pick, Florida State turned those into two scores for ten points.
WHY VIRGINIA TECH LOST
Naturally, it all starts with the running game. If Thomas can't get going on the ground (10 carries for 16 yards), the Hokies are always in trouble. Freshman running back J.C. Coleman and junior Tony Gregory combined for 24 carries for just 60 yards. That's good for 2.5 yards per carry, and neither had a run of more than seven yards. Ouch.
As mentioned, Florida State played disciplined football; however, Virginia Tech racked up 62 yards of penalties on just six infractions. While the Hokies out-gained the Seminoles by 74 yards, they lost the penalty yardage battle by 36 yards. It's not much, but that surely had an impact in a game that came down to the final seconds.
Kickoffs have also continued to plague the Hokies. Freshman Brooks Abbott failed to record a touchback on five attempts, and the Virginia Tech coverage unit struggled to contain returner Lamarcus Joyner. The five starting spots for the Florida State offense on kickoffs: 18, 50, 29, 34, and 32. The Seminoles capitalized with 17 points on three of those returns.
NUMBERS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE WITH THE RESULT
Obviously the one stat that makes zero sense is the -15 rushing yards Florida State was able to accumulate. The Seminoles came into the game with the 14th best rushing attack in the nation, but averaged -0.7 yards per rush against the Hokie D.
As mentioned before the game, Devonta Freeman had rushed for at least 70 yards in each of the last three games while averaging 8.1 yards per carry. He managed -5 yards on 7 carries.
Senior wide receiver Corey Fuller notched a season-high of seven catches for 124 yards and a TD; however, it seems each time Fuller breaks out the Hokies lose. In the five games Fuller has at least 80 yards receiving, Virginia Tech has lost four of those contests. The Hokies have also lost four of the five games in which he's scored. What?
WHAT VIRGINIA TECH DID WELL
The stats showed just how well Virginia Tech played on defense. The Hokies tied a season-high with five sacks, and also set a new season-high of 12 tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Jack Tyler's safety was one of the biggest momentum-shifters in the game, and the unit also notched two turnovers. Unfortunately, the five plays over 20 yards hurt the finishing numbers.
As much as the Hokies struggled on kickoffs, Freshman A.J. Hughes was equally as phenomenal on punts. He averaged 44.5 yards on six punts, and placed half of those inside the 20-yard line (one on the 20). The Seminoles scored 0 points when receiving those six punts.
While the running backs produced abysmal stats on the ground, they opened up a new facet of the offense that will hopefully be built upon. Coleman and Gregory were able to get the ball in space on short dumps, resulting in a combined five catches for 59 yards. Each produced a reception of at least 14 yards, and Gregory's third-down conversion paved the way for junior kicker Cody Journell's go-ahead field goal with 2:19 left. If Thomas is able to be more accurate on those throws (he missed a few), the running backs could be a deadly weapon in the air going forward.
Not to the surprise of many Hokie fans, Thomas extended his interception streak to eight games. This includes three straight multi-pick games, and he hasn't thrown for multiple touchdowns since Duke. Thomas has also failed to throw for three touchdowns (unlike his counterpart Manuel) in every game thus far.
Although the defense played well, Manuel's 326 yards was the third time the unit has given up at least 300 yards passing this season. To put that in perspective, the Hokies had only allowed two opponents to record 300+ yards through the air in the previous four years.