Tech topped No. 15 Florida State for the first time in 33 years last Saturday, hanging on for a 31-28 victory.
The win, coupled with Virginia’s loss against Miami, gave Tech sole possession of first in the Coastal conference of the ACC. It also helped Tech (7-2, 4-2 in the ACC) gain bowl eligibility. Florida State (6-2, 3-2), fell into a second place tie in the Atlantic division.
Sophomore B-back Jonathan Dwyer ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. He led a rushing attack that gained 288 yards against a highly ranked defense. The total was nearly half of the yardage the Seminoles had yielded in all their previous games combined.
“What we did today, up until the end, was take care of the ball and finished drives…. We finished drives,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
The first half was an offensive show between the two traditionally defensive powerhouses. Tech scored three touchdowns in a span of less than five minutes in the second quarter, capitalizing on Florida State’s turnovers and favorable field position. Freshman safety Cooper Taylor intercepted a ball at the Florida State 32 yard-line and returned it to the four yard line.
“It was a big play by Mike Peterson. He tipped the ball up, and the coverage we were in gave me the opportunity to get it. I tried to take it to the house, but got tackled a little short,” Cooper said.
Junior A-back Greg Smith ran the touchdown in just two plays later to give Tech a 24-10 lead.
Still, Florida State was able to recover quickly. On the next drive, freshman running back Jermaine Thomas had a huge run of 62 yards to set up first and goal. A touchdown was scored two plays later to cut the deficit to one touchdown, 24-17. The two teams headed into the locker room with the Jackets leading 24-20 after a late Florida State field goal.
The second half was characterized by the shift to the defensive side of the ball. Still, Dwyer continued his career day by running for a 66-yard touchdown on the opening drive in the third quarter to extend Tech’s lead to 31-20.
“[It was] one of the biggest holes I’ve ever ran through. The offensive line did a great job, and [redshirt freshman] Nick Claytor got a big block on the 60-yard run,” Dwyer said.
Neither team was able to score for the rest of the third quarter and rarely advanced into scoring threat positions.
Heading into the fourth, Tech led FSU by 11 points. The Jackets’ offense began to stall while Florida State’s established some momentum. Freshman quarterback Jaybo Shaw, coming in for the injured Nesbitt, struggled gaining five yards on seven carries.
The Seminoles were able to drive 70 yards in the middle of the fourth quarter and convert a two-point conversion to bring the game within one score.
Shaw made just one passing attempt, but it nearly cost Tech the game. On the ensuing drive after the score, Shaw threw an interception on the first play to FSU’s 41-yard line.
The defense allowed the Seminoles to get to the two-yard line with less than a minute to play before the ball was stripped from FSU running back Marcus Sims. The ball rolled into the end zone, where it was recovered by Reid.
Cooper attempted to pick the ball up and nearly lost it, but was able to come out on bottom with the recovery.
“I saw [Reid] try to pick that ball up and I wanted to strangle him. Then when I saw him roll over with it, I wanted to kiss him,” Johnson said.
The win ended Tech’s record of futility against Coach Bobby Bowden. The Jackets lost the last 12 meetings. The Jackets’ last win was in 1975, a year before Bobby Bowden was hired.
The Jackets will next travel to Chapel Hill for the last ACC road game of the season against North Carolina.