Photo courtesy of Garnet and Great/Florida State archivist
Upon its entry into the ACC, Florida State immediately became the class of the conference.
In most years, FSU was the odds-on favorite to win the ACC. On this day 15 years ago however, the Seminoles were a long shot.
FSU was a heavy underdog for the first-ever ACC Championship, but were sparked by a second-half punt return in a 27-22 upset of No. 5 Virginia Tech.
Setting the Stage
Fifth-ranked Virginia Tech was the reigning ACC champion and was 10-1 as it arrived in Jacksonville on Dec. 3, 2005. The Hokies had won the ACC in their first season in the conference and were 2-touchdown favorites to repeat.
At one point in the season, FSU was ranked in the top 5. After a 7-1 start however, the Seminoles had dropped three straight games as they arrived in Jacksonville. At 7-4, virtually no one was giving Florida State a chance.
Through a half of football, all the teams had mustered was a pair of field goals. FSU and Virginia Tech went to the locker room tied 3-3 before a special teams play changed the trajectory of the contest.
FSU forced a 3-and-out to open the second half as Virginia Tech’s Nic Schmitt went back to punt. Schmitt boomed a 49-yard kick, which was fielded by Florida State’s Willie Reid inside his own 20-yard-line. Reid made one cut before outracing Hokies on his way to an 83-yard touchdown.
The punt return gave FSU a 10-3 lead and served as the catalyst for 24 straight points for the Seminoles. FSU was in the end zone again less than three minutes later.
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Following an interception by FSU safety Pat Watkins off Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick, a pair of Drew Weatherford completions was followed by a 14-yard touchdown run by Leon Washington. Gary Cismesia added a 41-yard field goal before a second Virginia Tech turnover set up Weatherford’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Chris Davis with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.
The big third period allowed the Seminoles to take a 27-3 lead into the final quarter. Against a largely prevent FSU defense, Virginia Tech was able to make things interesting.
After a 28-yard touchdown pass to Josh Morgan, Vick scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the final quarter. The ensuing onside kick with less than two minutes to play however, was recovered by the Seminoles. FSU ran out the clock to seal the win.
Vick passed for 335 yards on 52 pass attempts for the Hokies, but it was not enough. Morgan led all receivers with seven catches for 128 yards.
Weatherford passed for 225 yards during a turnover-free night while completing passes to eight different players. Reid and Davis finished with 79 and 78 yards receiving, respectively, for FSU. Lawrence Timmons and Brodrick Bunkley combined for 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble for an FSU defense that tallied six sacks and eight tackles for loss.
The victory would give Florida State its 12th ACC title in 14 years. FSU would go on to fall to Penn State in a triple-overtime thriller in the Orange Bowl.
Virginia Tech bounced back to beat Louisville in the Gator Bowl to finish No. 7 in the final AP Poll. Following a 10-win season in 2006, the Hokies went on to win three of the next four ACC titles.
Virginia Tech is 3-3 all-time in the ACC Championship and has represented the Coastal division more than any other program. Its first appearance was an upset loss to Florida State that occurred on this day 15 years ago.