EJ Manuel's signature moment

EJ Manuel's late touchdown drive for the Seminoles kept ACC title hopes alive, and also gave him a signature moment for his career.

Florida State fans know the feeling all too well of what it's like to see the Seminoles go on the road on a Thursday night and suffer an inexplicable, heartbreaking loss to an otherwise inferior team.

It was déjà-vu all over again in Blacksburg until E.J. Manuel and Rashad Greene came to the rescue with their backs against the wall.

There will certainly be plenty of questions asked regarding why the Seminoles seem to find themselves in that position time and time again, the bottom line is FSU is now 9-1 and one win away from the ACC Championship game. And that's nothing to be disappointed about.

"When you come in here on a Thursday night and win? Guys, I'm not disappointed at all. To go 9-1, to be right here, to beat Virginia Tech on a Thursday night here - we can all say everything we want to say, we can criticize everything we want to criticize. We came in here and won a football game and did a heck of a job competing in the game."

Manuel, who finished with 3 touchdowns on 326 yards passing, put together a signature moment in the final two minutes of the game.

FSU took over at its own 32-yard line and Manuel went right to work leading the offense down the field on a 68-yard drive keeping the Seminoles ACC Championship aspirations intact. On the drive Manuel went 4 of 6 for 66 yards with 39 of them coming when he connected with Greene who blazed past the Virginia Tech secondary and found the end zone for his second touchdown of the night.

"We knew we were going to win that game," Greene said. "I looked at EJ and he looked at me and I told him we're not going to lose. We went out there and executed."

Manuel, who instills every personal attribute you could want in a player, has taken a lot of criticism over the years and come out on the losing side of this plot too many times to count, making this moment all the more special for him.

"It was awesome the way we won, I'm honestly still at a loss for words," Manuel said still in uniform. "I think it might sink in during the one-hour trip back to Roanoke airport, I'm just so happy for my teammates."

Manuel has and always will be a student of the game, and understands the significance of having a signature moment in the closing minutes of the game. After all, quarterbacks are judged on how they perform with the odds stacked against them in the final minutes of a game. When the clock struck zero and Manuel realized that victory was his, he had a grin from ear to ear and looked up and pointed to the sky as if to say, thank you, finally.

"Yeah, man that's another thing I'm grateful for is to finally be a part of something like that," Manuel said. "I went out there and told the guys to believe, just believe. Nobody was fearful of the situation and I feel like we embraced it more than anything. This is where legends are born and we felt that way tonight."

While the final drive went pretty smooth for Manuel and the offense, that wasn't the case for much of the game. The offense hit quite a few dry spells throughout the game and Manuel took his worst beating of the season.

Virginia Tech's defense was constantly blitzing in an attempt to make the Seminoles offense one-dimensional as well as try to force Manuel to make some bad decisions.

The Hokies defense certainly had success limiting the FSU rushing attack as the ‘Noles had -15 yards rushing on 25 attempts. They also succeeded in applying pressure on Manuel who was sacked five times, a season high given up by the FSU offensive line.

Manuel remained laying on the field after a few of those hits just trying to gather him self, and more importantly catch his breath.

"Yep, I took some shots, but that's what you're going to get when you come up here to Blacksburg and play a physical defense," Manuel said. "I kept losing my breath, usually I don't stay on the ground. I hate that, but I couldn't breathe so I had to gather myself."

Big hits like he was taking will always have an affect on the quarterback, but it's about how you deal with it and move forward.

"I was very proud of EJ, because you take as many hits as he did, it's going to effect the quarterback," Fisher said. "It affects Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, it affects all of them. Bu he stood in there when he had to, took shots in the mouth and made the throws he had to, to win the game.

It was that perseverance that was most impressive about Manuel's performance.

Despite all the ups and downs during the game, Manuel led his team in those pivotal moments, which is a clear sign of growth for this team, and more importantly this program.

"We may not always play well, but man there are some good football players on this team with a lot of character and a lot of heart," Fisher said. "For them to respond like they did, to not put their head down, deal with the adversity and come back says a lot about our program."

"And for EJ to come in his home state, play here in Lane Stadium on a Thursday night and win, put us one step closer to an ACC title, it's tremendous. EJ took a beating back there but he stood in there and made the plays when he had to, which is what great quarterbacks is find a way to win when you don't have your ‘A' game. EJ is full of character and I'm blessed to be able to coach him.


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