JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – The constant questions. The stinging criticism. The growing cries for change. They’re all history.

At least for now.

The Florida State Seminoles are conference champions – again.

Willie Reid returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown, the defense continually harassed Marcus Vick and Florida State upset No. 5 Virginia Tech 27-22 Saturday night in the inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

The Seminoles (8-4) snapped a three-game losing streak – the program’s first since 1983 – and won the league title for the 12th time in 14 years. They turned around a disappointing season and earned a Bowl Championship Series berth in the Orange Bowl, where they likely will face No. 4 Penn State.

Bobby Bowden vs. Joe Paterno – the two winningest coaches in major college football history.

“Does it look like that? I might not show up,” Bowden joked.

Few could have envisioned that matchup. Not after Florida State was outscored 89-36 in losses to North Carolina State, Clemson and Florida.

Boosters and fans were calling for Bowden to fire his son and offensive coordinator, Jeff Bowden. Some were even talking about the elder Bowden stepping down after 19 losses in the last five seasons. Others were already looking ahead and guessing how many in a row the team would lose; Florida State hasn’t lost four in a row since 1975, the year before Bowden arrived.

The Seminoles may have silenced those groans Saturday – starting with Reid’s return, which sparked a 24-point third quarter that broke a 3-3 tie.

Of course, they might have returned in the fourth quarter as the Seminoles conservatively worked the clock while Virginia Tech made a comeback.

Vick led the Hokies (10-2) to consecutive touchdowns in the fourth quarter – a 29-yard pass to Josh Morgan and then a 4-yard run – that cut the lead to 27-15. He capped a 93-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run with 1:45 to play that made it 27-22.

But Tech, without any timeouts, failed to recover the onside kick. The Seminoles ran out the clock from there – and celebrated another ACC title.

Vick was much better than he was against Miami last month, when he threw two interceptions and fumbled four times. He finished 26-of-52 passing for 335 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran 17 times for 11 yards and two scores.

He certainly gave Florida State a scare, but it was too little, too late.

The Seminoles did too much damage in the decisive third quarter. Virginia Tech went three-and-out to open the second half, and Reid fielded the punt near the sideline, sprinted ahead, cut inside and then juked two players and went nearly untouched into the end zone. Punter Nic Schmitt had a shot at Reid, but his diving, one-armed attempt at a leg tackle was futile.

Vick, who was sacked four times in the first half and six times in the game, threw an interception on the ensuing possession. Florida State’s Drew Weatherford completed consecutive passes to Fred Rouse and De’Cody Fagg, then Leon Washington sprinted up the middle for a 14-yard score.

The Seminoles had a 17-3 lead and all the momentum. Players were jumping up and down on the sideline. Florida State’s famed War Chant resonated through Alltel Stadium. This looked much more like the confident, borderline cocky, Seminoles who used to run roughshod through the conference.

That changed last year when Virginia Tech and Miami joined the league. The Hokies beat Miami for the ACC title in 2004 and were a double-digit favorite to repeat – mostly because of the Seminoles’ recent struggles.

But Florida State’s defense returned to form, making Virginia Tech look a step slow and as helpless as Miami did in a 27-7 victory in Blacksburg last month.

The Hokies backed into the championship game when Georgia Tech upset Miami three weeks ago.

Now, Virginia Tech will either return to Jacksonville and face Louisville in the Gator Bowl or play in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

The Hokies might want to avoid return to Alltel Stadium – especially with all the bad memories.

Florida State piled on two more scores in the third quarter, both of which were set up by good field position. After a 28-yard punt, Weatherford hooked up with Reid for a 41-yard gain that set up a 41-yard field goal by Gary Cismesia.

Receiver David Clowney fumbled following a screen pass on the ensuing drive, and Florida State was in Virginia Tech territory again. Weatherford completed a 22-yard pass to Greg Carr and later hit Chris Davis on a slant pass for a 6-yard score.

Weatherford finished 21-of-35 for 225 yards.

AP-ES-12-04-05 0026EST

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