Hokies, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!
Tyrod Taylor threw for 263 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, and Virginia Tech took control after a back-and-forth first 30 minutes en route to a 44-33 win over Florida State in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game.
The win was the 11th in a row for the Hokies after an 0-2 start and sends Tech to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. The opponent will be named Sunday night.
“Those two losses make these 11 wins so much better,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said.
The duel between senior quarterbacks between Taylor and FSU’s Christian Ponder never materialized, as Ponder did not play due to lingering issues from an elbow injury suffered in the Seminoles’ regular-season-ending win over Florida last week. Backup E.J. Manuel put up decent numbers in Ponder’s absence, connecting on 23 of his 31 pass attempts for 288 yards and one touchdown, but also had two interceptions, the first in the first quarter that was returned by Jeron Gouveia-Winslow 24 yards for a touchdown and the second in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down pass that led to a game-icing Tech field goal.
The Gouveia-Winslow pick-six gave Virginia Tech an early 7-3 lead, and it was 14-3 after a 9-yard run by Darren Evans. Florida State closed to 14-10 with 1:59 to go in the first on a 2-yard run by Ty Jones.
Taylor hit Jarrett Boykin with a 19-yard scoring pass to make it 21-10 Virginia Tech with 10:34 left in the second quarter. Another Jones TD run, this one from six yards, sent the teams into the locker room with Tech up 21-17.
The Hokies seized control in the third, with Taylor hitting Danny Coale on a 45-yard TD pass and then hooking up with David Wilson on a 21-yard TD to put Tech up 35-17 at the 4:43 mark of the third. Jones scored his third touchdown on the ground on the night from a yard out with 1:44 to go in the third to close the gap to 35-24.
Taylor scored on a third-and-goal from the 5 at the 11:29 mark in the fourth to put Virginia Tech up 41-24. Chris Hazley’s extra point was blocked and returned for two points, briefly keeping the ‘Noles in the game at 41-26.
The second of Manuel’s two INTs led to a 43-yard Hazley field goal that made it 44-26 Virginia Tech with 6:59 to go, for all intents and purposes putting the game out of reach.
Florida State scored the game’s final points with seven seconds to go when Manuel hit Chris Thompson for a 20-yard TD pass.
Taylor was named the game’s MVP after completing 18 of his 28 pass attempts for 263 yards and three touchdowns and adding 24 yards and another score on the ground.
The key to the game for Tech was its third-down conversion proficiency. The Hokies converted 13 of their 18 third downs, while Florida State was 6-of-12 on third downs.
Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.