Saturday, November 10, 2012
Hokies' defensive letdown 'deflating'
Virginia Tech once again let an opponent score a game-winning TD in the final minute.
Photos by Daniel Lin | The Roanoke Times
Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel dives for extra yardage during the third quarter. Virginia Tech held FSU to minus-15 yards rushing Thursday night.
FSU Quarterback EJ Manuel (3) is sacked by VT defenders Luther Maddy (92) and Alonzo Tweedy (28) in the second quarter. Virginia Tech sacked Manuel five times on Thursday night, none came in the game's final drive.
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Florida State 28, Virginia Tech 22
Hokies' report card
CAPITALIZE IN THE RED ZONE
BThe Hokies were 4-for-4 in the red zone, scoring two touchdowns and two field goals. But having to settle for a field goal late after getting to the FSU 3 with just over two minutes remaining proved costly in the end.
FORCE SOME TURNOVERS
BThe Hokies forced two turnovers — getting an interception by Donovan Riley at the 1-yard line and jumping on a loose ball on a muffed punt — although neither led to points.
NO SPECIAL TEAMS MISTAKES
B-Tech didn't have any glaring special teams gaffes like previous weeks, but Cody Journell missed a 43-yard field goal early and the Hokies gave up a 42-yard kick return, although it didn't lead to points.
BLACKSBURG - The Virginia Tech defense was impressive for most of Thursday night's football game. But when it came time to close the game out, the unit didn't exactly perform like Mariano Rivera.
The Hokies surrendered the winning touchdown pass in the final minute for the second time this season, falling to eighth-ranked Florida State 28-22 at Lane Stadium.
"That's the worst feeling, losing like that," defensive tackle Luther Maddy said Thursday night after the game. "It's worse than losing 50-0 â? because it's in our hands and we let them score. It's just a terrible feeling. We've got to execute. We've got to do better."
Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel teamed with Rashad Greene on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds left.
"It's heartbreaking," cornerback Antone Exum said.
The Hokies (4-6, 2-4 ACC) had taken a 22-20 lead on a Cody Journell field goal with 2:19 to go.
But Manuel marched the Seminoles (9-1, 6-1) 86 yards in eight plays on a drive that took just 93 seconds. He completed five of seven passes on the drive, which was kept alive by a fourth-down run by James Wilder Jr.
"Those are situations where we ... need to come up and make a stop. That's what's deflating," linebacker Jack Tyler said of the drive. "When we're all running out there for that drive, that's the position we want to be in. That's why we came here, to be in that position in the fourth quarter, the crowd's going wild. That's the part of football everyone enjoys. That's what's the hardest part.
"We just didn't make a play when we needed to. It's just crushing."
It was a familiar feeling.
On Sept. 29 at FedEx Field, Munchie Legaux threw a 39-yard TD pass with 13 seconds left to give Cincinnati a 27-24 win over the Hokies. In 90 seconds, the Bearcats drove 85 yards in nine plays.
Thursday's loss is "hard because I thought we played well enough to get the win. Quite frankly, I think we've played well enough to get a lot of wins this year," said Tyler, whose fourth-quarter end-zone tackle of Devonta Freeman earned Tech a safety. "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."
Tech also gave up an FSU touchdown in the final minute of the first half. Manuel threw a 25-yard TD pass to Greene to cap a five-play, 71-yard drive that took just 1:58.
The Seminoles began their winning drive with 2:13 left in the game.
"It was just something we practice every Thursday -- two-minute drill," FSU fullback Lonnie Pryor said. "We wasn't worried."
The Hokies, who had sacked Manuel five times in the game, continued to blitz on FSU's winning drive. Manuel was not sacked on that drive, though.
"We were getting great pressure all game. We just didn't get pressure when we needed to," Tyler said. "That's kind of the story of the season."
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster's unit held FSU to minus-15 yards rushing in the game. But on the winning drive, Wilder barrelled up the middle for a 7-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from the FSU 41.
Four plays later, the Hokies were in man-to-man coverage when Greene -- 2 yards past one defender and 4 yards behind two other defenders -- caught an underneath pass at the VT 35 on the left side of the field. He sliced through the opening in the defense and raced across the field to the end zone, with five Hokies initially chasing him and three more Hokies picking up the pursuit from the right side.
"The place was loud and I think we screwed up the last coverage on that touchdown," Tyler said. "It was just a blown coverage.
"We need to focus harder. We need to make sure we're in the right coverage and play the right defense. Coach Foster spends hours and hours trying to get the game plan right. For 59 minutes, we did it and then for the last minute, we didn't. I'm sure he's crushed. We're all crushed.
"There's two or three times on the last drive where we could've stepped up, someone could've made a play, and they were the ones that kept making plays and that's why they won."
It was not the first time a quarterback of a top-10 team stunned the Hokies in Lane Stadium with a late drive on a Thursday night. Current Atlanta Falcons star Matt Ryan threw a 24-yard TD pass with 11 seconds left to give Boston College a 14-10 win over Tech in 2007.
The Hokies have not had a losing record this late in the season since 1992.
"I never expected this," Maddy said. "I just didn't know how it felt to lose. I came into this season expecting to win every game.
"It's a horrible feeling, just a terrible feeling inside of you that we're losing all these games, not making the alumni, the fans proud."