TALLAHASSEE, FLA., SEPT. 29 -- In a game filled with opportunities, Virginia Tech fumbled away its chance of upsetting second-ranked Florida State and dropped a 39-28 decision tonight.
The Hokies were trailing by 32-28 with 3:59 remaining and driving deep into Seminoles territory, but tailback Vaughn Hebron took the third-down pitch from quarterback Will Furrer, swept outside for first-down yardage at the 20 and lost control of the ball. Cornerback Errol McCorvey picked up the ball in stride and went 77 yards for a touchdown.
"With about five minutes to go I thought we had an great chance to win it," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "If we score there we win the game. Then that fumble."
Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden was elated to get his 199th victory: "That was one of the greatest football games I ever saw. Both teams just played their hearts out, we just managed to come out a little ahead."
The Hokies took a 21-3 lead in the first half.
Tech's first touchdown was set up on tailback Tony Kennedy's 22-yard option pass to Nick Cullen. Furrer then connected to John Rivers for his first of two four-yard touchdowns.
After a 25-yard punt, Virginia Tech went 45 yards on eight plays -- capped by another Furrer-to-Rivers four-yard touchdown pass -- to take a 14-3 lead.
The Hokies' jumpstart continued when cornerback Scott Jones blocked John Wimberly's punt. On the next play Kennedy broke right 26 yards untouched for a touchdown.
But that appeared to wake up Florida State. Quarterback Brad Johnson went three for five for 68 yards, setting up Amp Lee's five-yard scoring run up the middle, making it 21-10. Johnson completed all five passes on the next series including his second touchdown pass of the game, a four-yarder to Shannon Baker. With the deficit at 21-16, Bowden opted to go for two points. Looking to pass Johnson was left with no one to throw to and took it in himself, diving headlong into the end zone for the conversion.
After halftime the Seminoles continued their offensive explosion. Johnson continued to be unstoppable, completing every pass on the opening drive, including a 16-yuard touchdown to freshman Matt Frier as Florida State took a 25-21 lead.
But the Hokies did not falter. Behind the running of Hebron and Bryant, Virginia Tech drove 78 yards to the 2. On fourth and inches, Furrer's pass toward Rivers sailed long and was intercepted by McCorvey.
"I don't know if it was a mix-up by me or by the quarterback," Rivers said. "All I know is that in practice I stop and cut back on the lob underneath the defender."
The Seminoles promptly gave the ball back. Johnson's high throw to Lee was tipped to Mark Scott, who returned the interception to the 3.
The Seminoles forced the Hokies to another fourth down. This time the Hokies lined up three receivers; Furrer rolled right and lined a low pass to Hebron, who made the catch sitting down to give the Hokies the lead, 28-25.