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BLACKSBURG - The coach, the quarterback and the pass catcher agree �" the crucial play in Thursday’s win wasn’t drawn up with points in mind.
Called on second-and-10 from the Virginia Tech 39 with 50 seconds left, the simple crossing route from EJ Manuel to receiver Rashad Greene was more of a yardage chewer, a call to get FSU in position to boot a potential game winning field goal.
Turns out it was the right call at the right time. The Virginia Tech blitz was on. Greene was open. Then he got a block downfield from fellow receiver Greg Dent, which all added up to short route going 39 yards for the Seminoles’ go-ahead touchdown with 40 seconds to play.
“We knew it was going to be zero (man-to-man) coverage,” Fisher said. “In zero coverage, if we can get the rub and hit it, we knew it had a chance to be a big play and if we got the seam, he does that and he’s hit that two or three times this year like that. We knew if we did, we’d definitely be in great field goal shape and if he could finish it �" he finished it �" it’s one of our man-beaters.
The score was Greene’s second of the night as he posted a game-high 125 receiving yards.
“That play, you know it was a simple play, not something we usually score on,” Greene said. “But the lineman made good blocks, EJ made a good throw and the receivers downfield made their blocks.”
The drive went eight plays for 68 yards in 93 seconds. To get Greene in position, Florida State needed Manuel to convert a third-and-9 to Kenny Shaw at its own 33 and also needed running back James Wilder Jr. to pick up a fourth-and-1 at FSU’s own 41.
Fisher credited the success to the team’s familiarity with the two-minute offense, something they practice each Thursday during a normal game week. Fisher and his offense discussed that practice before they took the field on the final drive.
“Hey, we’re going to do what we do every Thursday and that’s what they said to me,” Fisher said. “(That’s when) we work all of the different situations, one timeout, two timeouts, no timeouts 45 seconds, we do all the scenarios all those situational things. When I told them what we were going to call and do they said ‘That’s just like Thursday.’ I said ‘You’re right, here we go.’ And they went out and executed it.”
Uptempo pace nets three scoring drives
For much of the night the Seminoles’ offense seemed stuck in neutral. FSU finished with just 311 yards of total offense, and negative 15 yards rushing. Yet on the three touchdown drives in the win over Virginia Tech, FSU’s offense looked to be in a perfect rhythm as it went hurry-up.
EJ Manuel led FSU on scoring drives of 79, 41 and 68 yards when utilizing the hurry-up. On all three drives, including the game-winning drive, FSU scored in eight plays or less in less than two minutes.
“We tried to get tempo so they couldn’t get their calls in and control tempo on their own,” head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “They adjusted to it and then came back, we adjusted to it and then came back. It was a game of adjustments back and forth.”
FSU first employed the no huddle trailing 10-6 in the second quarter. It took Manuel just five plays to go 71 yards and make it a 13-10 Seminoles’ lead.
“That was pretty comfortable for us,” said Greene, who capped off the drive with a 25-yard TD catch. “We do a lot of running in practice so it was nothing new to us. That’s what we train for, that’s what our offseason is like.”
FSU’s fast-paced offense also led to a 10-yard touchdown grab by Greg Dent in the third quarter, and the game-winning 39-yard score for Greene.
“That first time we went up-tempo and we scored, we knew from right then that it would be more easy for us,” said Dent. “Because they couldn’t get to their blitzes because we’re moving so fast getting the play-call in and getting everybody in and out.”
Hunter’s wild ride
Thursday was an up and down game for the majority of the FSU roster. Yet no one had quite as topsy turvy of a day as Tyler Hutner.
The sophomore defensive back started the game strong with a first quarter interception, but then muffed a second quarter-punt and struggled in coverage. Yet on the Hokies’ final drive it was Hunter who came up with his second interception fo the game at the FSU 33 to seal the victory.
Hunter didn’t just muff a punt and struggle in coverage, he looked like he wanted no part of fielding a Hokie kick the rest of the night. After the fumble he let the remaining five punts hit the ground, costing FSU chunks of yardage each time. Yet at the end of the game, Fisher and the coaching staff still had the confidence to put him in as the nickel back.
“He got beat on some plays. Get getting beat in the slot,” Fisher said . “But again you know what he did? Went and played the next play. That’s what good football players do. That’s what we train to do and we tried to tell him to.
“You get beat you line up and you go play again. You get beat on sack you line up and go play again. That’s the difference of teams who can persevere and the team’s who can’t win.”
Even in the midst of a dominant 11-tackle performance, Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine was sidelined for portions of the second half on Thursday night. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said that “guys get banged and bruised” and didn’t comment on any injury status, saying “we’ll have to wait and see.” He was seen walking to and from the locker room with no obvious issues during the second half. Fisher is expected to give an injury update during his weekly news conference on Monday.
Virginia Tech safety Michael Cole suffered a scary injury in the third quarter that stopped the game four about seven minutes. He was stabilized and taken off of the field on an ambulance.
Virginia Tech head athletic trainer Mike Goforth said that Cole suffered a cervical neck sprain. Goforth released this statement following the game: “He was conscious on the field, able to move all extremities but had neck pain and numbness in the upper extremities. He was stabilized on the spine board and transferred to LewisGale Montgomery Hospital for further testing. His CT scan in negative for any fracture and he will be discharged home (Thursday night.).”
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