Thursday, June 21, 2018
Colleges

Florida State Seminoles beat Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in ACC title game

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — James Wilder ran for two touchdowns in the first half as No. 13 Florida State held off Georgia Tech 21-15 Saturday night to capture its first ACC championship since 2005 and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.

FSU's 13th ACC title was earned in front of an announced 64,778, the smallest attendance in the three years the game has been played in Charlotte.

The heavily favored Seminoles (11-2) built a 21-6 halftime lead and held on, helping to erase some of the sting from last week's 37-26 home loss to Florida.

Georgia Tech (6-7) is bowl eligible after receiving a waiver from the NCAA on Thursday.

It looked like Georgia Tech, a two-touchdown underdog, might get blown out, but the game wasn't decided until defensive back Karlos Williams tipped a Tevin Washington pass and intercepted it around midfield with less than a minute left, nearly returning it for a touchdown.

The Yellow Jackets, trailing 21-6 at halftime, slowed down the Seminoles in the second half and forced two turnovers by senior quarterback EJ Manuel to get back in the game. Turnovers became a mounting issue for FSU as the season wore on.

Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke jarred the ball from Manuel's grasp and recovered the fumble in the third quarter.

Washington, who hadn't completed a pass all game, suddenly came alive, hitting Chris Milton for 18 yards and B.J. Bostic for 32 yards to reach the 3.

Robert Godhigh picked up a first down on fourth and 1, and Washington scored his 19th touchdown of the season on the following play to cut FSU's lead to 21-15 with 6:27 left in the game.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson went for two and failed, meaning the Seminoles only needed a field goal to make it a two-possession game.

That didn't happen as defensive back Jemea Thomas intercepted Manuel's downfield pass to give the Yellow Jackets a last chance with 2:17 left.

But Williams intercepted Washington at the Yellow Jackets 44 and returned it to the 4 to seal the victory.

Florida State captured the momentum early.

The Seminoles, who came in with the fourth-best rushing defense in the country, stuffed Georgia Tech on three plays on its first possession, setting the tone for the game.

Taking advantage of a shanked punt, the Seminoles took over at the Georgia Tech 42 and scored six plays later as Devonta Freeman took a pitch from Manuel and ran around right end for a 3-yard run. It was Freeman's eighth touchdown of the season and his seventh in the last six games.

Wilder, a former Plant High standout, scored on a 16-yard touchdown run and added a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-3 before the Yellow Jackets added a field goal before halftime.

FSU outgained Georgia Tech 211-141 in the first half.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher had some concerns about defending Georgia Tech's triple option offense coming into the game.

The Yellow Jackets came in averaging 40 points per game in ACC play this season and 323.3 yards rushing per game, third-best in the country.

But FSU, led by ACC defensive player of the year Bjoern Werner, swarmed running backs David Sims and Bostic in the first half, repeatedly stuffing the option. Washington didn't complete a pass in the first half and the Yellow Jackets 1 of 7 on third downs.

Georgia Tech played without leading rusher Orwin Smith, who sat out with an ankle injury. Smith was averaging 9 yards per carry.

 
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