On Saturday night, fortunes in the kicking game fell in Florida State's favor, helping to fuel a 17-point spurt in the third quarter of its 27-22 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game.
Most significant was Willie Reid's 49-yard punt return for a touchdown that shattered a three-all deadlock and gave the Seminoles the lead for good just 55 seconds into the second half.
After fielding the kick by VT punter Nic Schmitt, Reid ran untouched to his second return score of the season. Senior Patrick Harrington and freshman Eugene Hayes threw critical blocks that paved the way for what would become the most essential play of the night for FSU.
"QUOTE", said Reid.
They also did the little things.
On punt coverage, safety Pat Watkins downed one kick within the VT 1 to add to the offensive misery of the Hokies, who totaled just four first downs in a telling third quarter that was played entirely on their half of the field.
Tip-toeing and setting the ball down in one fluid motion, Watkins helped to place a Chris Hall punt within the opponents' 20 for the 18th time this season.
The punt unit also forced Schmitt into a 28-yard shank in the face of a strong rush that helped to set the table for a 41-yard field goal by Gary Cismesia.
Reid's game-turning score was his second punt return for a touchdown this season. The senior, who broke Deion Sanders' school record for punt return yardage in season last fall, also scored on a punt return Oct. 29 against Maryland.
The last FSU player to return two punts for scores in a season was Peter Warrick in 1999. Warrick's second was at the expense of the Hokies in the Sugar Bowl as FSU routed VT for the national title.
Success on special teams has been a season-long constant for the Seminoles, who have experienced a wide range of ups and downs on offense and defense in an 8-4 regular season. FSU blocked six punts this fall and is tops in the conference in punt returns (11.9 yards per return) and punt coverage (1.5 per opponent return).
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