Seminoles close the deal, beat Georgia Tech to win ACC title

dscott@charlotteobserver.comDecember 2, 2012 


Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee (2) is sacked by Florida State defender Devonta Freeman (8) in the first quarter of the ACC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. TODD SUMLIN -


— It’s been seven years, but the ACC football championship is returning to Tallahassee, Fla., thanks to Florida State’s 21-15 victory Saturday against Georgia Tech in Bank of America Stadium.

It’s the 13th ACC title for 13th-ranked Florida State (11-2), but it’s been since 2005 since it last happened. The Seminoles are now headed to Miami, where they will represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1.

“We know the road is going to be hard any time you play for a championship,” said Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, whose team survived a late touchdown by Georgia Tech and got an interception from Karlos Williams with a minute left to clinch it.

Despite a losing record, Coastal Division-champion Georgia Tech (6-7) will still be eligible to receive a bowl invitation.

The game was played before an announced crowd of 64,778, the smallest attendance in the three years the game has been played in Charlotte.

Florida State’s other 12 titles came under former coach Bobby Bowden. This is the first for Fisher, who replaced Bowden in 2010.

“That first (championship) gets you over the hump,” said Fisher. “Now you know what it takes. We can play great football now for years to come.”

The Seminoles got 69 yards rushing and two touchdowns from running back James Wilder Jr., who was named the game’s MVP. Quarterback EJ Manuel completed 16-of-21 passes for 134 yards and rushed for 59 more.

Georgia Tech had 301 yards in total offense, but could produce just one touchdown, a 1-yard run by quarterback Tevin Washington with 5 minutes, 55 seconds remaining. That cut the score to 21-15, where it remained after the Yellow Jackets failed on a two-point conversion.

Before that, the only scoring the Yellow Jackets could muster from their spread-option offense was three field goals (two by Chris Tanner, one by David Scully).

“We could drive the ball down the field, but we didn’t hit any big explosive plays,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson.

It didn’t take Florida State long to get its first touchdown. After a poor punt by Georgia Tech’s Sean Poole on the Yellow Jackets’ first possession, the Seminoles scored on a 3-yard run by Devonta Freeman with 10 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Seminoles opened the second quarter with another touchdown. On the third play of the quarter, Wilder sprinted up the middle from 16 yards and it was 14-0 with 13:54 left in the half.

Although Georgia Tech’s Tanner kicked a 27-yard field goal with 9:25 remaining in the half, Florida State came right back with another Wilder touchdown. This time he capped a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard run with 4:56 left in the half.

After Scully booted a career-long 47-yard field goal with 1:12 left in the quarter, the Seminoles were still able to take a comfortable 21-6 lead into halftime.

The Yellow Jackets got their third field goal of the game late in the third quarter, when Tanner hit from 36 yards to narrow the score to 21-9.

The Seminoles appeared to be heading for a game-clinching score early in the fourth quarter. But another turnover – this time a fumble by Manuel that was caused and recovered by Emmanuel Dieke – gave the ball back to the Yellow Jackets.

It took Georgia Tech 13 plays to do it, but it cut the score 21-15 on a 1-yard run by Washington with 6:27 remaining. Johnson elected to go for a two-point conversion, but it failed when Washington came up short.

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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