BLACKSBURG, Va.(AP) Tyrod Taylor and Virginia Tech didn't make coach Frank Beamer suffer through another disheartening loss to Florida State, but the No. 11 Hokies sure made their coach and fans sweat it out until late Saturday.
Taylor returned from a sprained ankle that kept him out 2 1/2 games and threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, lifting the Hokies to a 40-21 victory. It was the first win for Beamer in eight tries against Florida State, and marked the first time Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden has lost to Virginia Tech in 16 career meetings.
The Hokies (8-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) blew a 14-point halftime lead and trailed 21-20 entering the final quarter, but Taylor drove them to his go-ahead 3-yard scoring run, and three late Seminoles turnovers made a close game turned lopsided.
The end came with fans that had fallen silent in the third quarter celebrating wildly as the Hokies poured it on, as if one victory could erase two painful recent losses. In 1999, the Seminoles beat the Michael Vick-led Hokies in the Sugar Bowl national championship game, 46-29, and then two years ago, the heavily favored Hokies collapsed under a barrage of penalties and lost 27-22 in the first ACC title game.
But this time, with Taylor throwing for 204 yards and running for 92 more, and Justin Harper catching five passes for 167 yards, and the the defense rising in the end, the Hokies stayed on course for a chance to return to the ACC title game.
They have two games left - at home against Miami, and at Virginia.
The Seminoles (6-4, 3-4), who seemed to be catching their stride last week when they beat No. 8 Boston College, lost quarterback Drew Weatherford to concussion before halftime and failed to get the 78-year-old Bowden his 300th victory at the school.
The game changed on Taylor's skills. On the Hokies go-ahead drive, he ran 12 yards for a first down, and threw a deep ball to Harper down the left sideline that was initially ruled no catch, but was overturned, making it a 45-yard gain to the 1.
Three plays later, Taylor took it in on a draw play. His 2-point conversion pass to Zach Luckett made it 28-21, and it was all downhill for the Seminoles after that.
Two plays later, backup quarterback Christian Ponder, who had an impressive third quarter, fumbled and Cam Martin recovered, leading to a 22-yard field goal. Chris Ellis intercepted Ponder at the 5 on the next series and danced into the end zone, making it 38-21.
A sack for a safety completed the scoring.
The Seminoles were limited to two field goals in the first half, but quickly got back in the game in the third quarter. Gary Cismesia kicked a 50-yard field goal to end their first series of the half, and Dekoda Watson intercepted a tipped pass by Taylor and returned it 40 yards for a TD to make it 20-15 just 1:54 later.
That helped quiet the crowd, and the Hokies did little to wake them, going three-and-out for the third consecutive series. When Brent Bowden punted it away, a 15-yard facemask penalty against Richard Graham allowed the Seminoles to start at their 46.
Ponder, impressive in his first action for the Seminoles, hit De'Cody Fagg for 28 yards on a third-and-5, ran for 22 yards on a third-and-14 and hit Fagg in the end zone for the touchdown that gave the Seminoles a 21-20 lead, stunning the crowd.
The Hokies led 20-6 at halftime after Taylor hit a wide-open Justin Harper on a slant for a 31-yard touchdown, then ran 38 yards for a first down on a third-and-31 from the Hokies 34 . The drive ended with a 5-yard scoring pass to Josh Morgan.