Manuel's TD keeps Seminoles' title hopes alive

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 09, 2012
E.J. Manuel was on the run all game trying to elude Virginia Tech's blitzing defense. But when No. 8 Florida State needed to make plays that would keep its best season in over a decade moving forward, the quarterback made them. Manuel's game-winning touchdown pass with 40 seconds left moved them one victory away from an ACC title game berth. The stirring 28-22 victory on Thursday night at Lane Stadium gave Florida State (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) its best record after 10 games since 2000, when the Seminoles played for the national championship. It also marked the first time in Manuel's career that he threw a touchdown pass on the final drive to win a game. ''They made us do some things because of their blitzes which were different,'' Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said after Manuel was sacked five times and hit numerous other times. ''We had to adjust on the run. E.J. took a beating back there, but he stood in there and made the plays. That's what great players do.'' Manuel was the leader and didn't wait until he was in the huddle to rally his team. '''Just believe,' I told them that on the sideline,'' he said. ''Everybody stepped up.'' Including running back James Wilder Jr. The Seminoles, who finished with minus 15 yards rushing, turned to Wilder on fourth-and-1 from their 41 on the winning drive. He gained seven yards, carrying defenders on his back. Then it was time for Manuel's heroics. After an incomplete pass, he Greg Dent for 13 yards before throwing a ball away under pressure. On second-and-10 from the Hokies' 39, Manuel then hit Rashad Greene on a short slant and Greene took it all the way, diving for the pilon in the right corner of the end zone to give the Seminoles the lead. Manuel finished 25 for 42 for 326 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The game-winning, fourth-quarter drive was his first since he threw two final quarter scoring passes to rally the Seminoles from a 14-0 deficit to an 18-14 victory against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29, 2011. For the Hokies (4-6, 2-4), the game was the hardest blow in a season that has been full of them. ''I think it's kind of obvious how it feels,'' cornerback Antone Exum said. ''It hurts.'' Virginia Tech plays at Boston College next Saturday, and then hosts Virginia in the tradition regular season finale in two weeks. It needs to win both to go to a bowl game for the 20th straight season. ''After a loss like that,'' quarterback Logan Thomas said of the Hokies' fifth loss in six games, and first at home since early last season, ''the first thing you want is to get back on the field.'' The Seminoles close the regular season at Maryland on Nov. 17. --- Follow Hank on twitter at:
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