By Matt Jones, sports editor
For awhile it looked promising for the Hokies, and with under a minute left Frank Beamer and his crew appeared on their way to upsetting the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles.
E.J. Manuel had other plans, as he found wide receiver Rashad Greene on a crossing route for a 39-yard touchdown with 40 seconds remaining to put down the Hokies.
The loss makes the Hokies 4-6 and in need of two wins in their final two games against Boston College and Virginia to become bowl eligible. In what has already been a disappointing season, wins to finish off the season would take a bit of the edge off.
“I want to thank our fans for hanging in there with us and trying hard,” said Frank Beamer, head coach. “We just couldn’t get it done for them.”
And here’s a little more…
That final touchdown pass by Manuel (who himself finished with 326 yards passing and three touchdowns) was due in part to a breakdown in coverage and the wide receiver Greene making an athletic play.
The Seminoles were already in Dustin Hopkins field goal range, although it would have been near a career long attempt, but the Hokies allowed Greene to slip open through the secondary and run in for a score.
“I think we got a little mixed up on the coverage that we were in on the boundary side,” said cornerback Antone Exum. “They picked us off and kind of had a guy running free through the middle.”
It was Greene’s second touchdown of the night (his first came on a 25-yard pass with 48 seconds left in the first half) and also put him over 100 yards on the day.
“It’s crushing,” said linebacker Jack Tyler. “I thought we played well all game. That’s why they preached 60 minutes and not 59. We have to make a stop there at the end and we didn’t make it happen. It’s just deflating.”
Exum and the defense held Manuel in check for the most part, letting him complete just 59 percent of his passes. The two Greene touchdowns were backbreakers for the defense, however.
“I think it’s pretty obvious how I felt…it hurt,” Exum said. “We gave up the final drive at the end of the game and the drive at the end of the half, and that hurt us. It hurts.”
For the second time this season, the Hokies played up to their level of competition. Against Clemson and Florida State, the two best teams in the ACC, the Hokies gave fans a glimpse of what they are capable of.
“We were well prepared for this game,” said quarterback Logan Thomas. “We were ready to go and we knew what we had to do. I think our confidence was very high as well. I knew exactly what they were going to do on defense, I think my receivers did and my linemen did as well. Coach Foster had the defense ready to go as well. We studied just like anybody else does, and Florida State wasn’t a complicated defense, they were just a fast defense. We had to take advantage of the opportunities we got.”
Now that the Hokies have their backs up against the wall, they have no choice but to win their final two games. Exum said their confidence has not wavered a bit.
“It boosts our confidence a lot,” he said. “Everybody on the offensive and defensive side of the ball played their hearts out, so you take your hat off to Florida State for making plays when they needed to. I told the guys at halftime that if we played our hearts out, we would win the game. We did that, but we just fell a little short. Our confidence won’t go anywhere. We still got two wins to become bowl eligible.”
Thomas, who finished 19-of-34 passing for 298 yards and a touchdown, also threw two interceptions, including one on the potential game winning drive. His focus remains on the next game.
“Obviously it’s tough,” Thomas said. “We’re going up to play a good Boston College team in the freezing cold and you just have to have the right mindset and be ready to go. After a loss like this, the first thing you want to do is get back on the field. That’s the way I feel.”
Trailing 20-10 late in the third quarter, the Hokies began their comeback. A Thomas touchdown run was followed up by a fourth quarter safety to make the score 20-19. The Hokies had the ball with first and 10 from the Florida State 13 yard line with about three minutes remaining in the game.
Two J.C. Coleman runs made it third and three when the Hokies took a timeout. Out of the timeout, Thomas was tackled short of the first down on a two-yard rush up the middle.
“We were in a great rhythm,” Thomas said. “We were picking up three yards a pop every single play. That’s what you want as an offense. We had the third and one, and we had the perfect play drawn up, we just missed a block and I probably would’ve scored. Anytime you can a lead late in the game as an offense that’s what you need to do.”
Journell’s field goal gave the Hokies the lead, but it didn’t last. The missed opportunity for a touchdown was huge.
“We just had to be better on offense,” Coleman said. “When we had third and one, we had to get that and punch it in the endzone.
“It happened like that a lot times this season,” he continued. “We just have to take advantage of our opportunities, and tonight we didn’t do that. We came close, but close wasn’t good enough tonight.”
A big key to the success of the defense was the blitzes and pressures brought by Foster and the defense. The Hokies had five sacks and 12 tackles for loss while limiting the Seminoles to negative-15 yards rushing.
Foster inserted Alonzo Tweedy into the starting lineup, going away from his usual starters of either Jeron Gouveia-Winslow or Ronny Vandyke. Tweedy started one game in 2011, and had been used primarily on special teams this season.
“We a package in of me blitzing in some of their formations, so that was the key to my position tonight,” Tweedy said. “I tried to just disrupt the run and disrupt them from passing the ball. I think we did a good job of that.”
The pressure seemed to work for the most part. Tweedy finished with six tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
“It felt good being out there knowing I was playing with a great defense,” Tweedy said. “I just wanted to go out there and help them and that’s what I felt I did. We played good tonight.”
Jack Tyler and Kyle Fuller each finished with a team-high eight tackles. The pressure the Hokies brought seemed to throw a kink in the Florida State offense.
“You blitz any quarterback…you can blitz Peyton Manning and he’s not going to be as good,” Tyler said. “You get in his face with pressure, and that was our goal to try to get him to make some errant throws and get some pressure on him. I thought we did that and we played well all game, and things didn’t go our way at the end. That seems to be the way the season has gone.”
Odds and ends:
- The Hokies had three turnovers against Florida State. Tech is now minus-6 in turnover margin this season. That’s currently tied for 10th in the ACC.
- Coleman, who had just five carries for 23 yards against Miami, carried the ball 16 times Thursday night for 41 yards. Michael Holmes did not play.
- Corey Fuller had a career-high seven catches Thursday for 124 yards. He also scored on Thomas’ lone touchdown pass.
- A.J. Hughes punted six times, averaging 44.5 yards per punt. He also pinned three punts inside the 20.
- The Hokies were 6-of-16 on third down. They scored on all four of their red zone chances.
Photos courtesy SPPS