Here are a few more notes and quotes …
** Unlike losses earlier this season that ended in blowouts, Virginia Tech stuck close in this contest, grabbing the lead on a field goal with 2:19 to play but giving it back on a 39-yard touchdown catch by Florida State receiver Rashad Greene with 40 seconds left.
“It’s heartbreaking,” cornerback Antone Exum said. “You never want to lose like that, especially when you put everything out there on the line and leave everything on the field.”
Head coach Frank Beamer was dejected after but, like he has time and again this season, couldn’t fault his team’s effort.
“I am proud of our football team,” said Beamer, who came up just shy of his eighth career win against a top-10 team. “We just couldn’t get the thing to totally bounce our way. Again, we had the lead and we couldn’t hold it.”
** First, an injury note I’d like to get up top: Safety Michael Cole suffered a scary injury in the third quarter, staying down at the end of a play and lying motionless on the field. He was stabilized to a spine board and taken to LewisGale Montgomery Hospital for further testing.
Hokies trainer Mike Goforth said in a statement afterward that Cole never lost consciousness on the field but had neck pain and numbness in the upper extremities. Still, he was able to move all of his extremities.
A CT scan at the hospital did not show a fracture and Cole was scheduled to be discharged to go home Thursday night.
** This is Tech’s first three-game conference losing streak since the end of the 2002 season when it was still a member of the Big East. The Hokies, who got up to No. 3 in the polls that year, lost to Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia in succession.
This loss puts them in a bigger bind, though. Tech needs to win its last two games at Boston College and at home against Virginia just to become bowl eligible and extend the school’s postseason streak to 20 years.
“After a loss like this, the first thing you want to do is get back on the field,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. “That’s the way I feel, and I hope that’s the way the other guys feel.”
“We’ve still got two wins to get to be bowl eligible,” Exum said. “And we will get them.”
** Virginia Tech scored 12 unanswered points to take a 22-20 lead with 2:19 to play, but it could have been more. Thomas scored on a 5-yard run late in the third quarter before linebacker Jack Tyler forced a safety.
The Hokies started the ensuing drive at their own 44-yard line with 6:51 to play after a nice return by J.C. Coleman. But they couldn’t pull off the twin goals of scoring a touchdown or bleeding the clock all the way down.
Thomas completed a 15-yard pass to Tony Gregory on third down to move the chains. After a run, back-to-back passes to Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts produced first downs, getting the ball to the 24.
But the Hokies stalled out near the goal line. Three runs from the FSU 13 netted only nine yards. The last, a read play by Thomas up the middle, was stopped a yard shy of the marker.
“We actually had the perfect play drawn up,” Thomas said. “We just missed a block or I would have scored.”
Tech instead had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Journell.
** It left too much time for FSU, though. EJ Manuel, who threw for 326 yards, showed why he’s one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation. He completed 4 of 7 passes for 66 yards, including the 39-yarder to Greene that was the dagger.
“We got mixed up on the coverage we were in,” Exum said of the game-winning play. “They picked us off and a guy was running free to the middle.”
“It was just something we practice every Thursday, two-minute drill,” FSU running back Lonnie Pryor said. “We knew we had to go out there and score to win the game. We practice it every Thursday. We wasn’t worried. We wasn’t nervous.”
It left Tech’s defense crushed.
“Those are situations where we need to play, we need to come up and make a stop,” Tyler said. “That’s what’s deflating about it That’s what we want to do, is be in that situation, and we still didn’t get it done.”
** The defense had an otherwise strong day, making the breakdown at the end all the more heartbreaking.
The Hokies held the Seminoles to 311 yards, more than 200 below their season average. They matched a season-high by sacking Manuel five times and finishing with 10 tackles for a loss.
FSU finished with negative-15 yards, tied for the third-fewest the Hokies have held an opponent to under Beamer. Arkansas State had negative-28 yards in 1997. Temple had negative-24 in 1998. Two others teams — East Carolina in 2011 and Temple in 2000 — also finished with negative-15 yards.
The Seminoles’ previous season-low this year was 125 rushing yards at N.C. State. It was their worst rushing effort going back to at least 1973.
** Offensively, Tech wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, but the Hokies’ 385 yards were still more than anyone but Clemson had gained against Florida State’s league-best defense this season.
Thomas was 19-for-34 for 298 yards and a touchdown but had two picks. The first was a bad read on an underneath route that Tyler Hunter jumped for a pick. The second was on a ball thrown behind Corey Fuller in the final minute, again picked off by Hunter.
The Hokies’ success came mostly in the air, though. Fuller had a team-best seven catches for 124 yards and a touchdown, hauling in a 4-yard pass in the end zone on a well-thrown fade from Thomas. It was the second 100-yard game of Fuller’s career. He now has a team-high five receiving touchdowns.
Tech, like most teams FSU has played, found running lanes hard to come by. The Hokies finished with 87 rushing yards, led by Coleman’s 41 on 16 carries. Tony Gregory had 19 yards on eight carries. Thomas, who was sacked twice, had 13 yards on 10 carries.
Michael Holmes did not get a carry, the kind of narrowing down of the running back rotation many thought would happen last week against Miami.
** Some other quick hitters:
- PK Cody Journell made field goals of 35 and 21 yards but pulled a 43-yarder in the second quarter. His career long remains 42 yards. It was Journell’s second field goal miss in the last two weeks after missing a 47-yarder at Miami.
- WR Marcus Davis had two catches for 68 yards, making a nice catch after contorting his body on a 54- yard pass in the first quarter, but he had a couple of big mistakes. He fumbled near midfield at the end of a reception that was going to be negated by a penalty anyway, setting up an FSU touchdown in the third quarter to go ahead 20-10. In the fourth quarter, he dropped a deep ball that was well thrown by Thomas. Tech would punt on the possession.
- Senior Alonzo Tweedy stepped into a starting role at whip linebacker and took full advantage, finishing with six tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss and providing a speed element to the edge of the Hokies’ defense.
- CB Kyle Fuller and Tyler led the defense with eight tackles apiece. DE James Gayle had two tackles for a loss, including one sack. Tyler, Tweedy and Antoine Hopkins all had 1.5 tackles for a loss.
- For FSU, defensive end Cornellius “Tank” Carradine had a game-high 11 tackles, including a sack.
- Freshman CB Donovan Riley intercepted his first career pass, thrown into the game early on a third-down play near the goal line. A tipped pass bounced right into his hands at the 1-yard line.
- Walk-on Josh Trimble recovered a muffed punt by Hunter in the second quarter, giving the Hokies the ball at the FSU 34. Tech didn’t go anywhere with it and the drive ended with Journell’s missed field goal.
- Thomas’ rushing touchdown was the 18th of his career. Only Tyrod Taylor (23) and Bob Schweikart (21) have more in Tech history at quarterback.
- Tech had a seven-game home winning streak snapped.
** The game was the second the Hokies have lost in the last minute of the fourth quarter this year. They lost to Cincinnati 27-24 at FedEx Field on a touchdown pass with 13 seconds left.
This loss left a similar feeling.
“It’s hard because I thought we played well enough to get the win,” Tyler said. “Quite frankly, I think we’ve played well enough to get a lot of wins this year. It just doesn’t seem to be happening. The balls aren’t bouncing our way and we’re not making plays when we need to. It’s frustrating, it’s deflating. I think we’re all crushed.”