BLACKSBURG, Va. — E.J. Manuel hit Rashad Greene with a slant pass that Greene took 39 yards for a touchdown with 40 seconds to play and No. 8 Florida State survived a scare to beat Virginia Tech 28-22 on Thursday night.
The Seminoles (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their fourth in a row and moved within a victory against Maryland on Nov. 17 of securing a spot in the Dec. 1 ACC Championship Game.
The Hokies (4-6, 2-4) lost for the fifth time in six games and will have to beat Boston College and Virginia in their final regular season games to qualify for a bowl game for the 20th consecutive year.
The Hokies had gone ahead 22-20 on Cody Journell’s 21-yard field goal with 2:19 remaining. The kick capped a 52-yard drive that stalled when Logan Thomas ran for 2 yards on third-and-3 from the 6.
The Hokies limited the Seminoles to 311 yards, more than 200 below their average for the season, and gained possession leading to the go-ahead field goal with a stellar defensive series.
After the Seminoles took over at their 20, Manuel threw incomplete on first down and James Gayle sacked him for a 10-yard loss on second down. A delay of game penalty moved the ball back to the 5 and, when the Seminoles tried running Devonta Freeman to the left, Jack Tyler caught him from behind in the end zone. Freeman tried to throw it, an illegal forward pass, and the safety pulled the Hokies to within 20-19.
It also gave them the ball, but when they only managed a field goal, the Seminoles made them pay.
Limited to minus-15 rushing yards for the game, they got 7 from James Wilder Jr. on a fourth-and-1 play from their 41, and Manuel hit Greg Dent for 13 yards two plays later. After Manuel threw a pass away under pressure, he hit Greene on a short slant against a zone defense and Greene took it all the way.
The Seminoles opened a 20-10 lead with a 49-yard touchdown drive after recovering a fumble by Hokies wide receiver Marcus Davis. Manuel completed three passes on the six-play drive, including a 10-yard bullet to Greg Dent in the back of the end zone with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
Virginia Tech replied quickly, driving 80 yards in eight plays. Thomas hit Corey Fuller for 44 and 14 yards on the drive, and ran it in himself from the 5, bulling over several defenders.
The game was delayed for about 10 minutes in the third quarter when Virginia Tech safety Michael Coles was hurt and lay face-down and motionless on the field. As the crowd stood in silence, Coles was taken away by ambulance. The school said he had a neck sprain, but had feeling and movement in his extremities.
The Seminoles arrived with the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense, averaging nearly 45 points, but the Hokies neutralized it for the first 27 minutes, allowing just a pair of field goals by Dustin Hopkins.
The Seminoles twice started drives near midfield early, and got nothing out of them. The first ended with Donovan Riley’s interception of Manuel’s pass at the 1, and the second with a three-and-out punt.
But after Thomas drove Virginia Tech 68 yards for the game’s first touchdown, giving the Hokies a 10-6 lead, Manuel and the Seminoles — held to zero yards at that point in the second quarter — clicked.
Manuel hit Kevin Benjamin for 12 and 17 yards, and then Greene beat Kyle Fuller twice — for 22 and 25 yards — to finish a five-play, 71-yard drive in 1:58 to give Florida State a 13-10 lead.
On the Hokies’ drive, Thomas connected with Fuller’s older brother, Corey, on three third-down plays. The first went for 33 yards on third-and-9, the second for 15 yards on third-and-4 and the last for 4 yards and the touchdown on a perfectly thrown third-and-2 fade to the right corner of the end zone.
Florida State took a 6-3 lead after Tyler Hunter intercepted Thomas’ pass at the Hokies 34. Virginia Tech had a chance to tie when it recovered a punt that was fumbled by Hunter at the Seminoles 30 on the next possession, but three plays netted only 4 yards and Cody Journell’s 43-yard field goal was wide left.