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QB EJ Manuel etches name in Seminoles' lore

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)

(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)By BRENT KALLESTADAssociated Press

Florida State's top quarterbacks are often remembered for engineering memorable wins.

EJ Manuel is now a part of the conversation.

Manuel led a 68-yard drive that resulted in a 28-22 last-minute win Thursday at Virginia Tech to keep the 10th-ranked Seminoles' Atlantic Coast Conference championship hopes alive.

''That's what the really good players are able to do,'' Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday. ''To do it after being hit, being knocked around ,tough environment, everything going wrong, to be able to do that, that takes some special things.''

Manuel was sacked five times, had the wind knocked out of him twice but didn't flinch against Virginia Tech's pressure. The Hokies had stopped the Seminoles running game cold before Manuel hit Rashad Greene with a 39-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds to play. It was a dramatic finish to Manuel's lone collegiate appearance in his home state.

''You see a receiver make a catch and go down the field and score a touchdown, there's no more gratifying feeling for a quarterback,'' said the always understated Manuel. ''To do it in a place where nobody wanted you to win, it was cold, it was late in the game, we were beat down. It says a lot for our confidence and moving forward in our season.''

And left the Seminoles in position to win their first ACC title in seven years and perhaps finish with their best record in a dozen seasons. Florida State (9-1, 6-1 ACC) can clinch the Atlantic Division and a berth in the Dec. 1 league championship game with a win at Maryland (4-6, 2-4) on Saturday.

Manuel is 22-5 as a starter at Florida State and has been at the helm with come-from-behind wins over Maryland in 2009, Clemson in 2010 and Notre Dame in last year's Champs Sports Bowl - the last time the Irish lost.

But none of those were quite as dramatic or important for Florida State, which was on the verge of losing for the second time in a month to a double-digit underdog. The lone stain on the Seminole season is a 17-16 loss at North Carolina State.

Other memorable drives include:

- Heisman Trophy quarterback Charlie Ward's last-minute, game-winning drive that lifted Florida State to its first national title in 1993 with an 18-16 Orange Bowl win over Nebraska. He also engineered memorable late comebacks at Clemson and Georgia Tech in 1992.

- Chris Weinke's big fourth quarter keyed a 46-29 win over Virginia Tech for the 1999 national title.

- Danny Kanell threw for 232 yards in the fourth quarter as the Seminoles scored 28 unanswered points in a 31-31 tie against archrival Florida in 1994.

And now Manuel appears to be on his way as the quarterback who brought Florida State back with what is shaping up as a Ward-like season.

Manuel has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 2,641 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. Ward completed 69.5 percent of his passes in 1993 for 3,032 yards and 27 TD's and only four interceptions.

And while Manuel's heroics have appeared to save a season that started with national title aspirations, they blew a 16-point halftime lead in Raleigh, N.C., tumbling out of the top 10 briefly. Weinke and Ward both had North Carolina State at home in their national title seasons.

Tagged: Florida State, EJ Manuel, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida

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