Nov. 10, 2007
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) – With two games left in the regular season, Virginia Tech has things right where it wants: the offense is hitting its stride, the defense keeps making big plays and the Atlantic Coast Conference title is theirs for the taking.
Tyrod Taylor threw for two touchdowns and ran for another Saturday and the Hokies finally got coach Frank Beamer his first career victory against Florida State, 40-21.
Still, the victory didn’t come as easily as it sounds.
The Hokies (8-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) blew a 14-point halftime lead and trailed 21-20 entering the final quarter, but Taylor drove them to his go-ahead 3-yard scoring run, and three late Seminoles turnovers turned a close game into a rout.
“The ball’s in our own court,” senior linebacker Xavier Adibi said. “Our destiny’s in our own hands and we can still accomplish a big goal that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year: We can still get that ACC championship.”
To do it, the Hokies need to beat Miami next Saturday at Lane Stadium, then win their annual matchup with rival Virginia a week later in Charlottesville, earning a berth in the conference title game against the winner of the Atlantic Division.
First, they had to end a history of failure against the Seminoles. Beamer was 0-7 in his career against Florida State, and Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden was 15-0 in his career against the Hokies, including two of the biggest losses in Tech history.
“Everybody kind of knew that Florida State had our number,” said quarterback Sean Glennon, who started and was sharing time with Taylor until he got knocked loopy.
In 1999, the Seminoles rallied to beat the Michael Vick-led Hokies in the Sugar Bowl national championship game, 46-29. Two years ago, the heavily favored Hokies collapsed under a barrage of penalties and lost 27-22 in the first ACC title game.
“All the seniors played in that ACC championship when Florida State beat us,” Adibi said, recalling a game when the Hokies had 17 penalties for 143 yards.
“That’s a bad taste that’s been in my mouth for a while,” Adibi said.
Taylor and Co. didn’t make Beamer suffer through another heartbreaker, but the Seminoles sure made the Hokies coach and fans sweat it out until late in the game.
The game changed on Taylor’s skills. On the Hokies go-ahead drive, he ran 12 yards for a first down, and threw a deep ball to Justin Harper down the left sideline that was initially ruled no catch, but was overturned, making it a 45-yard gain to the 1.
Three plays later, Taylor took it in on a draw play. His 2-point conversion pass to Zach Luckett made it 28-21 with 10:10 left, and it was one-sided after that.
“I think he’s made out of the right stuff,” Beamer said of the soft-spoken freshman quarterback. “He’s kind of like our football team. He’ll come back and keep battling.”
Taylor finished 10-of-15 for 204 yards and ran for 92 more. Harper caught five passes for 167 yards and a touchdown, and the defense allowed 267 total yards.
“I didn’t expect to see the second coming of Vick,” Bowden said after being denied his 300th victory at Florida State. “We couldn’t tackle that guy. We’d get in a position – on that third and a million, he ran. Couldn’t tackle him.”
The Seminoles (6-4, 3-4), who seemed to be catching their stride last week when they beat No. 8 Boston College, lost quarterback Drew Weatherford to injury before halftime and were led back by backup Christian Ponder until the fourth quarter.
Two plays after Taylor’s go-ahead run, Ponder was stripped by Barry Booker and Cam Martin recovered for Tech, leading to a 22-yard field goal. Chris Ellis then intercepted Ponder at the 5 and danced into the end zone, making it 38-21.
A sack for a safety completed the scoring.
Trailing 20-6, the Seminoles quickly got back in the game in the third quarter. Gary Cismesia’s 50-yard field goal ended their first series, and Dekoda Watson intercepted a tipped pass by Taylor and returned it 40 yards for a TD just 1:54 later.
That helped quiet the crowd, and the Hokies did little to wake them, going three-and-out for the third consecutive series. When Brent Bowden punted it away, a 15-yard facemask penalty against Richard Graham allowed the Seminoles to start at their 46.
Ponder hit De’Cody Fagg for 28 yards on a third-and-5, ran for 22 yards on a third-and-14 and hit Fagg in the end zone for the touchdown that gave the Seminoles a 21-20 lead, stunning the crowd.
Taylor hit a wide-open Justin Harper on a slant for a 31-yard touchdown on just his second play, then ran 38 yards for a first down on a third-and-31 from the Hokies 34. The drive ended with a 5-yard scoring pass to Josh Morgan 12:29 before halftime.
Following a punt by Florida State, Taylor hit Josh Hyman for 14 yards, Kenny Lewis Jr. ran for 17 and Taylor hit Harper with a perfectly thrown 48-yarder to the Seminoles’ 4. Two runs by Branden Ore later, Virginia Tech was rolling, 20-6.