Bryce Watts probably could have given up on the play and no one would have noticed. Okay, that’s not totally true. A few people would have noticed. But Florida State running back Cam Akers could have glided into the end zone unburdened by Watts’s presence and no one would have blamed Virginia Tech’s sophomore cornerback.
With exactly 12 minutes left to play on Monday night, Florida State took possession of the ball at its own 9-yard line, trailing 17-3. Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois accepted the 1st and 10 snap and handed to Akers, standing to his left. For one of the very few times that night, Akers found an opening in Virginia Tech’s defense and tore down the left side of the field, busting free at the 10. By the time he reached the 15, Akers was in the clear — a gaggle of Hokies nipped at his feet behind him, but next human being standing in front of him was outside the far end zone.
Clear across the field, Watts noticed what was happening and took off. Sprinting at an angle, Watts cut across Florida State’s midfield logo, pulled even with him at the 20 and finally slung the Florida State running back down at the 6, 85 yards beyond where the play started.
That play was a disaster for Virginia Tech’s defense, but, thanks to Watts, the possession wasn’t over. On first-and-goal, Florida State rushed Akers again, and this time the Hokies stuffed him for no gain. On second down, Francois fired complete toward the sideline — for a loss of four yards. After a timeout, Florida State elected to put Akers behind center as a wildcat quarterback. Akers fumbled the exchange, and Hokies defensive lineman Houshun Gaines hopped on the ball to end the threat.
What had seemed like a sure Florida State touchdown turned into a turnover, thanks to Watts’s effort.
Seven plays after their defense handed them the ball at their own 15, Virginia Tech’s offense put the ball in the end zone, and what could have been a 17-10 game was now over at 24-3.
This is why we do Pursuit Drill!! Backside Corner runs down the ballcarrier inside the 5yd line – saving a TD…3 plays later Virginia Tech recovered an FSU fumble! That Corner hustling & not giving up on the play helped keep his team up by 2 scores on the road in the 4th Quarter pic.twitter.com/66fuqN1cSu
— Coach Kay (@Coach_JKay) September 4, 2018
“I thought our effort was really outstanding from the start to finish,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said afterward, via VT Scoop. “I’m really pleased for our kids. We had a lot of question marks so-to-speak of guys playing in their first college football game and I was anxious just to see us go play, but I think the thing that stood out the most was our effort, then obviously, creating some plays which was really, really big and good to see.
“We really did a great job of shutting the run game down and they popped a big run, again, a great effort play by Bryce Watts.”