- David M. Hale, College football
For 30 minutes, Saturday's game offered an eerie reminder of Florida State's low point as a sluggish second half bore a stark resemblance to an October loss to NC State. In the end, however, FSU made just enough plays to secure its first ACC championship in seven years, and celebrate its biggest win of the season.
Here's a quick look at some of the players who made the fourth quarter interesting and helped secure a Discover Orange Bowl berth in the end.
1. Timmy Jernigan
It's easy for the work of FSU's burly defensive tackle to go unnoticed on a line that featured two potential first-round draft picks this season, but on Saturday, he was the star of the show. Jernigan finished with nine tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, and his first unassisted sack of the season while anchoring a line that was without star DE Cornellius Carradine. With Jernigan leading the charge, Tech finished with just 183 rushing yards Saturday, nearly half its season average.
2. Karlos Williams
The talented sophomore spent the week working behind Nick Moody at strongside linebacker, and the practice paid instant dividends. Moody left the game with a concussion in the first quarter, and Williams stepped in and finished with a team-high 11 tackles. It was his interception with one minute to play, however, that sealed the game and FSU's first conference title in seven years.
3. Rashad Greene
It wasn't a great day for the FSU offense in general, but Greene was the one consistent force in an otherwise up-and-down game. He finished with a season-high nine catches for 82 yards and added 18 more yards on an end around. His 9-yard reception on third-and-6 late in the fourth quarter helped wipe precious seconds off the clock to help set up one last defensive stand.
1. EJ Manuel
Manuel has shouldered the burden of a good bit of criticism throughout his career, but the fact is that he helped deliver FSU an ACC championship this year, which is something no other QB has done in seven years. Still, what will likely be remembered is a second straight ugly performance in which Manuel threw for just 134 yards and no touchdowns, while turning the ball over twice. He has six turnovers in his last two games.
2. Wide receivers other than Greene
While the standout sophomore had one of his finest games, Greene got little support from the rest of the cast. FSU's other wideouts accounted for just three catches for 16 yards, and Kelvin Benjamin coughed up a fumble following his lone reception.
3. The ACC
FSU has its conference title, and that's worth celebrating. But the asterisk many fans will put beside the title is hard to ignore. It was an awful year in the conference, with the Seminoles opponent in Saturday's championship game now sporting a losing record. The ugly matchup was evident in the crowd, too, which sparsely populated Bank of America Stadium. Rumors continue to swirl about the continuity of the league, and as the ACC sends a lone representative to the BCS and fails to fill two of its bowl slots, it's easy to wonder about the future of the conference -- and Florida State's place in it.
For 30 minutes, Saturday's game offered an eerie reminder of Florida State's low point as a sluggish second half bore a stark resemblance to an October loss to NC State.