No. 19 Tech defeated Florida State for its first-ever road win against the Seminoles on Saturday night, 49-44.
The two teams combined for nearly 1,100 yards of total offense, 51 first downs, 13 touchdowns and 10 drives of 60 yards or more. The teams combined for just one punt during the game.
“If we had to punt, we probably would not have won the game,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
Junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt led Tech’s offense with 27 carries for 143 yards and 131 yards passing. He had four total touchdowns. Junior A-back Jonathan Dwyer had his second 100-yard rushing game for the season, carrying the ball 14 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
There were 10 offensive possessions between the two teams in the first half, and all but Tech’s brief last drive ended in a touchdown. The teams went into halftime with FSU ahead 35-28.
Neither team had very favorable field position in the first half: Tech’s average drive started at its own 34 and FSU’s at its own 23.
Big plays were key for Tech. On their second possession of the game, junior A-back Anthony Allen broke a 60-yard run down the sideline to set up Nesbitt’s 1-yard rush that tied the game, 14-14.
“It’s like a track meet. Once you get the ball just sprint,” said Allen, who had 81 rush yards.
Despite the close score, FSU had a clear advantage in some key categories in the first half. Florida State outgained Tech in total yards 403-243. The Seminoles also had the ball for 20:23 while the Jackets only had it for 9:37.
The time of possession was skewed toward FSU because Tech did not have a scoring drive longer than 4:12 and averaged 2:20 per drive. Tech had three plays of 35-plus yards and three touchdown drives of just two plays or fewer.
“We talked at halftime and I told them there was not a difference between [this] game and a 7-0 game…We were going to get the ball first and we just had to get a couple of stops,” Johnson said.
On Tech’s first possession in the second half, Josh Nesbitt fumbled the snap at Tech’s 24-yard line to set FSU’s offense up deep in Tech territory. The defense made its first stop of the night, holding the Seminoles to negative yardage and forcing a field goal try that sailed wide left.
Tech’s next drive was its third scoring driving of 20 seconds or fewer, with Nesbitt throwing a deep pass to junior receiver Demaryius Thomas that was caught despite a defensive pass interference call. The game-tying 73-yard touchdown strike was one of two catches for Thomas, who finished with 84 receiving yards.
Tech took its first lead of the night on its next offensive drive on the longest possession for either team. The 9:07 possession was 16 plays and 80 yards long. Tech converted three third downs and one fourth down and had only one play longer than 15 yards. There was only one pass attempt, helping to keep the clock moving.
“We were so far down in time of possession at half time and basically the best way to play defense was to keep them off the field… We were able to eat up the whole third quarter,” Johnson said.
After the touchdown, the game became much more defensively oriented. Tech forced a three-and-out on FSU’s next possession, and the next four combined possessions all resulted in lost fumbles.
On Tech’s second fumble, Nesbitt pitched to sophomore A-back Roddy Jones on the option. The ball was fumbled and FSU linebacker Nigel Carr recovered, but when Carr attempted to run with it, Nesbitt ripped the ball from Carr and was able to regain possession for Tech. Because a change of possession had occurred on the play, Tech technically had started a new drive and had a first down at FSU’s 25-yard line.
“I thought Josh Nesbitt played a great game. The play he made to steal the ball back… was probably the play of the game,” Johnson said.
While Tech’s defense conceded 539 total yards and allowed 10-of-13 third-down conversions, it held FSU to just nine points and 126 yards in the second half. Junior defensive end Derrick Morgan had a strong performance with one sack and two tackles-for-loss.
“We’re going to have to win some games like [this] and we’re going to win some games 10-7,” Johnson said.
“Our main problem was the wishbone… We simply couldn’t stop them. 44 points should’ve won that game,” said Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden said.
The game was delayed due to lightning in the area for 78 minutes after Tech had tied the game 7-7 in the first quarter.