Georgia Tech — 14-7-7-7 — 35
Florida State — 7-21-3-6 — 37
Barring a shocker Sunday afternoon when the College Football Playoff committee announces the 4-team field, Florida State will have a chance to defend its national championship.
The Seminoles, who fell to fourth in the latest CFP rankings after a series of underwhelming wins against lesser opponents, kept their undefeated season alive Saturday night, beating 11th-ranked Georgia Tech 37-35 in the ACC championship game in Charlotte.
The win makes FSU a virtual shoo-in to join top-ranked Alabama and second-ranked Oregon in the inaugural playoff, with TCU, Baylor and Ohio State vying for the final spot.
The Seminoles couldn’t stop Georgia Tech’s offense in the first half, but Jameis Winston played one of his best games of the season, and the FSU defense came up with a couple big plays in the fourth quarter to put away the Yellow Jackets.
Check out the box score here and read on for a recap.
Jameis Winston Threw 3 Touchdown Passes to Lead FSU
In many of Florida State’s shakiest performances, the interception-prone Jameis Winston has been one of the biggest reasons for the Noles’ struggles.
But Saturday night, Winston looked more like the Heisman Trophy winner he was in 2013 than the flawed player he’s been for much of 2014.
Winston completed 21 of 30 passes for 309 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, leading an FSU offense that finished with 488 total yards. Dalvin Cook played one of the best games of his career, carrying the ball 31 times for 177 yards and a touchdown.
The Tech offense was impressive as well, out-gaining FSU 331-179 on the ground and turning the ball over just once. Justin Thomas completed 8 of 14 passes for 134 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and also carried the ball 11 times for a team-high 104 rushing yards. But Florida State was just a little bit better.
Lamarcus Brutus’ Interception & an Onside Kick Recovery Sealed it
Georgia Tech still had a glimmer of hope late in the fourth quarter, but the Seminoles appeared to have put the game away when Lamarcus Brutus picked off Justin Thomas’ pass at the Georgia Tech 47-yard-line, giving Jameis Winston and Co. the ball back with a 9-point lead.
Amazingly, Justin Thomas responded by leading the Jackets on a 97-yard scoring drive capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Darren Waller to make it 37-35 with 1:47 left.
But Florida State recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, then got a first down that enabled the Noles to run out the clock.
FSU Got a Huge Stop on 4th-and-5 in the 4th Quarter
Trailing by 6 and trying to get into Florida State territory mid-way through the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech opted to go for it on 4th-and-5 from its own 47. But Justin Thomas’ pass intended for Darren Waller was incomplete, giving Florida State the ball in Tech territory with a chance to expand its lead.
The Jackets defense prevented the Noles from getting into the endzone, but FSU added a 28-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal with 4:28 left that made it a two-possession game at 37-28.
Synjyn Days’ 3rd Touchdown of the Night Tied it, but FSU Answered
Georgia Tech opened the second half with a methodical, 14-play, 77-yard drive that culminated with another Synyn Days touchdown — his third of the game — to tie it at 28 with 8:01 left in the third quarter. The drive ate up almost 7 minutes of clock.
FSU reclaimed the lead on its next possession on a 33-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal that made it 31-28 with 3:13 left in the quarter.
The Noles had a chance to extend their lead by 10 when Winston took two shots into the endzone early in the fourth quarter. But FSU had to settle for a 32-yard Aguayo field goal with
Jameis Winston Hit Rashad Greene for Back-to-Back Touchdowns to Put FSU Ahead
Jameis Winston aired it out again in the second quarter, when he threw a 44-yard bomb to Rashad Greene for a touchdown that tied the game at 21 with 5:40 left in the first half. It was the Seminoles’ third touchdown on their first three possessions — matching the 3-for-3 start by Georgia Tech.
The Seminoles defense finally came up with a stop on Tech’s ensuing possession, forcing the game’s first punt with 2:30 left in the half.
Winston went back to work after the stop and hit Greene for another score — this one from 9 yards out with 30 seconds left — to give FSU its first lead of the game at 28-21.
Zach Laskey Put Georgia Tech Back on Top
Georgia Tech went 71 yards on its first drive, 75 on its second and 75 again on its third, which ended with a 4-yard Zach Laskey touchdown that made it 21-14 Ramblin’ Reck with 8:02 left in the first half.
Dalvin Cook Scored to Tie it for FSU
Another drive, another touchdown. Florida State answered Georgia Tech’s second touchdown of the day with its own second touchdown — this one by Dalvin Cook, who took it in from a yard out to tie the game at 14 with 14:10 left in the second quarter.
Synjyn Days Scored His 2nd Touchdown on Tech’s 2nd Drive
Continuing a first quarter in which neither defense could come up with a stop, Georgia Tech shredded FSU’s defense for the second time in as many possessions, completing an 11-play, 75-yard drive with another Synjyn Days 1-yard touchdown. This one made it 14-7 Yellow Jackets with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
Florida State Answered Tech’s Touchdown Right Away
Trailing by a touchdown before its offense took the field, Florida State answered quickly. Jameis Winston hit tight end Nick O’Leary for a 46-yard touchdown strike on the Seminoles’ opening drive, tying the game at 7 with 7:42 left in the first quarter.
Georgia Tech Scored a Touchdown on Its Opening Drive
Georgia Tech wasted no time scoring its first touchdown, staging an 8-play, 71-yard drive to start that game that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by Synjyn Days to make it 7-0 Jackets with 9:50 left in the first quarter.
Days was tackled right around the goal line, but officials ruled that the ball crossed the plane before he was down, and the call was upheld upon video review.
Preview: Georgia Tech Standing Between FSU & the Playoff
All year, Florida State has been underwhelming. Yet all year, the Seminoles have been unbeaten. And if the defending champions beat Georgia Tech Saturday in the ACC championship game, they’ll almost certainly earn a bid to the inaugural College Football Playoff.
The Yellow Jackets (10-2) may pose the biggest test yet to Florida State, who will have Jameis Winston under center even as he awaits a judge’s ruling on whether he violated FSU’s student conduct code when a female student says Winston sexually assaulted her in 2012.
Keep it here for live updates throughout the night. Here’s what you need to know about the matchup:
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech
Saturday, 8 p.m. EST
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Florida State (by 4 )
Florida State 21, Georgia Tech 15 on December 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia