Florida State Seminoles are ACC Champions, despite poor second half performance

Game MVP Florida State Seminoles running back James Wilder Jr. (32) celebrates with fans after the game. The Florida State Seminoles defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 21-15 to win the ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium. (Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE)

Saturday night’s ACC Championship game, despite being a Florida State victory, was indicative of the disappointment of the Seminoles’ season; a season marked by flashes of greatness and inexplicable under-performance.

Tallahassee’s trademarked First-Half-‘Noles looked like the team that rolled over Clemson — the team that Kirk Herbstreit predicted to go to the BCS National Championship game. The Second-Half-‘Noles, on the other hand, looked like the team that fell to NC State after being held to a scoreless 122 yards in the second half by a mediocre Wolfpack defense.

The First-Half-‘Noles used their first three possessions to put together two touchdown drives of a combined 107 yards. Its defense stalled out a Georgia Tech drive at the Florida State 10-yard line, forcing a field goal when a touchdown seemed immanent. They marched 75 yards to respond to that field goal with yet another touchdown. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s squad took a 21-6 lead into the locker room. Fifth-year senior EJ Manuel completed 78-percent of his first half passes and accounted for 110 total yards and the tandem of James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman tallied three touchdowns. The program’s elite defense was stout against the Georgia Tech triple option, which accounted for 99 of the mere 136 first-half yards allowed by the stingy Seminole D.

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The team looked and played dominantly, which was the expectation against a 6-6 Yellow Jackets squad.

However, the Second-Half-‘Noles were a different story. They possessed the ball six times, and with each possession looked progressively like the team that lost to NC State and Florida. FSU’s six possessions ended as follows: 3-and-out, fumble, 15-yard drive resulting in a punt, fumble, interception, kneel down. Thank goodness the ‘Noles were only up against Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets converted two of Florida State’s three turnovers into nine points (a field goal and a touchdown with a failed two-point conversion attempt). Any team with serious BCS aspirations would not have been as kind.

In fact, the ‘Noles didn’t secure the victory until Karlos Williams intercepted a pass with one minute remaining. One minute.

That said, this game did not go the way of the NC State matchup. The ‘Noles are ACC Champs for the first time in seven years, they’ve won 11 games, and they’re headed to a BCS bowl game.

It’s hard to complain about that.

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