JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown sidelined, Florida State has the edge on the field and on the scoreboard. In a bowl game that has turned into a battle of the backup quarterbacks, E.J. Manuel has the upper hand in experience. WVU backup Geno Smith entered the third quarter having thrown just 34 passes in four games this season. Now he's been tasked with leading the Mountaineers to a come-from-behind win against an emotionally charged FSU team that leads 23-21 in the fourth quarter.
So far, Smith has played well enough to keep the Mountaineers in the game, and he's already thrown more than Brown. Manuel, though, has a 2-1 record as FSU's starter, and that experience could prove to be the difference down the stretch.
In his fourth career start, Manuel connected with Jarmon Fortson for 26 yards and the first down with under five minutes remaining in the third quarter. It was a remarkable grab by Fortson, but two plays later, FSU scored on a 19-yard run by Jermaine Thomas. Manuel should have more confidence in this game, and FSU has done a good job of pressuring West Virginia's quarterbacks all day. If the defense can force Smith into a few rookie mistakes, the Noles could hang onto this edge.