By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The clock had just hit zero on Florida State’s 37-35 victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game and Reggie Northrup sprinted across the field like he’d been shot out of a cannon.
“Where are the hats at?” Northrup screamed.
“Where are the hats at?”
The hat in question, of course, is the one that reads “2014 ACC Champions,” and that marks FSU’s third straight year at the top of the league.
Dalvin Cook earned Most Valuable Player honors after piling up 220 total yards and Roberto Aguayo made three second-half field goals as the Seminoles survived another wild affair in a season that’s been full of them.
FSU is 13-0 for a second straight season and riding a school-record 29-game winning streak.
Even after dropping to No. 4 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the Seminoles feel like they’re locks to make the four-team field.
“I’m not worried about being No. 1,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’ll be in the playoff. That’s what matters.”
But Georgia Tech (10-3), of course, didn’t make it easy. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 331 yards and, after scoring a touchdown with 1:47 to play, saw their onside kick attempt recovered by FSU’s Lamarcus Brutus.
“Well, I’m disappointed, but I’m awfully proud of the football team,” Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “Florida State is a very talented team and it was the kind of game where you couldn’t make a mistake.”
FSU’s offense played perhaps its sharpest game of the year.
One week removed from the toughest outing of his career, quarterback Jameis Winston bounced back to complete 21 of his 29 attempts for 309 yards and three scores.
“He’s elite, he’s special,” Fisher said. “He’s different than anybody I’ve ever been around. That’s simple. … When he has a job to do and people counting on him, that’s what a man does.”
As usual, seniors Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary were Winston’s primary beneficiaries.
With his seven-catch, 123-yard performance, Greene added two more records to his ever-growing list. He now owns the FSU mark for receptions in a single season and set a new conference record for career receiving yards.
“Yeah, that’s pretty good,” Greene said with a smile.
He roughed up Tech’s secondary for two touchdowns and O’Leary added another to go along with his 97 receiving yards.
“This team is going to go as far as we take it,” Greene said. “And we understand that role.”
Greene and O’Leary carried the load, but it was Cook who stole the show.
Fresh off a career performance in last week’s win over Florida, the freshman set the bar even higher by rushing for 177 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries.
FSU typically likes to rotate its running backs, but with senior Karlos Williams sidelined by a concussion, the full workload fell to Cook. He finished with every one of FSU’s running back carries and even added five catches and 43 yards in the passing game.
“I think it was just my time,” Cook said.
“It’s been vital to our success that he’s come on how he’s come on,” senior center Cameron Erving added. “And the fact that Karlos was hurt tonight and couldn’t play, it was essential to our win.”
FSU’s defense, meanwhile, did its part with strong second-half effort that kept Georgia Tech’s running game in check after a frantic first half.
The Yellow Jackets ran for 214 yards and scored 21 points in the first half. They had just 117 yards and 14 points in the second.
Running back Synjyn Days ran for three scores and quarterback Justin Thomas added 104 yards on the ground. But he also threw a fourth-quarter interception to Brutus that severely damaged Tech’s hopes for an upset.
And the defense steadily got better despite losing starting defensive tackle Eddie Goldman on the game’s first drive and starting cornerback not long after that.
“There’s a lot of young guys you can say on defense stepped up there and did a good job,” Fisher said. “Very proud of them.”