TALLAHASSEE, FLA., SEPT. 30 -- Victory number 199 for Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden was supposed to be easy. But not until cornerback Erroll McCorvey ran a fumble back 77 yards for a touchdown with only 3:59 remaining were the Seminoles fans in the crowd of 60,031 assured Virginia Tech would not upset their second-ranked team.
Down, 32-28, and driving deep into Seminoles territory, the Hokies had a shot at winning the game. Virginia Tech was on the verge of getting a first down at the Seminoles 23 when tailback Vaughn Hebron was hit and fumbled. In stride, McCorvey picked up the ball and sprinted untouched for a touchdown for the final margin of victory, 39-28.
"With about five minutes to go I thought we had a great chance to win it," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "If we score there we win the game. Then that fumble."
Bowden was elated with the victory. "That was one of the greatest football games I ever saw," he said. "The most encouraging thing tonight was that we scored 11 more points than they did."
McCorvey's return sealed it but it was right cornerback Terrell Buckley who put Florida State ahead for good. With a defender charging, Virginia Tech quarterback Will Furrer threw into triple coverage where Buckley cut in front for his third interception of the season. He then weaved 53 yards for a touchdown for the 32-28 lead that the Seminoles never relinquished.
"I don't know if it was a mix-up by me or by the quarterback," said the intended receiver, John Rivers. "All I know is that in practice I stop and cut back on the lob underneath the defender."
Earlier Rivers scored the Hokies' first two touchdowns but the Florida State defense stiffened and capitalized on every Virginia Tech mistake.
"Buckley and McCorvey were just great," said Bowden. "It's hard to imagine two corners playing better than those two."
Those last two Hokies miscues destroyed a gallant effort by their defense, which forced three interceptions, and a Virginia Tech offense that totaled 418 yards.
"It's hard to take," said a banged-up Furrer in the locker room. Furrer left the game late with a thigh bruise. "I guess we can find it a little bit of a consolation in that we weren't supposed to be even close."
In the first half things were very promising for the Hokies. Twice Furrer found offseason basketball player Rivers for four-yard touchdowns enabling Virginia Tech to build a 14-3 lead. The Hokies continued to surprise when Scott Jones blocked John Wimberly's punt deep in Seminoles territory. On the next play tailback Tony Kennedy ran untouched 26 yards for a 21-3 Tech lead.
That appeared to wake up the sleepy Seminoles. Quarterback Brad Johnson directed an 84-yard drive that ended with tailback Amp Lee's five-yard touchdown run up the middle to cut the Virginia Tech lead to 21-10.
Johnson's throwing and running kept the rally going. He passed four yards for a touchdown to Shannon Baker, then scored on a two-point conversion run to get the Seminoles within 21-18.
The teams traded touchdowns before Buckley's interception return put the Seminoles in the lead to stay.