SHREVEPORT, La. – Frank Beamer built a powerhouse at Virginia Tech over nearly three decades thanks to a ferocious defense and terrific special teams.
In an unexpected twist, his final game with the Hokies was all about offense.
But the 69-year-old coach wasn’t complaining, only laughing and smiling in the aftermath of Virginia Tech’s 55-52 victory over Tulsa in the Independence Bowl on Saturday night.
“It was different,” Beamer said. “But all I know is we won the football game.”
Michael Brewer threw for 344 yards, Isaiah Ford had 227 yards receiving and Virginia Tech held off a Tulsa rally in the final minutes to send Beamer out a winner.
The coach announced in November he would retire following the season and the team won three of its last four regular season games to become bowl eligible. He finished with a 238-121-2 record at Virginia Tech over 29 seasons.
Virginia Tech (7-6) was playing in a bowl for the 23rd straight season. The first game of that streak also was in the Independence Bowl in 1993, when the Hokies beat Indiana 45-20.
“The first time I came to Shreveport I left here a happy guy,” Beamer said. “The last time I come to Shreveport I’ll leave here a happy guy.”
“I may come back to Shreveport just for the hell of it.”
This trip was filled with plenty of offense just like in 1993, but had much more drama.
Tulsa (6-7) rallied from a three-touchdown deficit in the second half to pull to 55-52 with 3:47 left. Virginia Tech’s Dadi L’homme Nicolas ended Tulsa’s final drive with a sack of Dane Evans on fourth down.
The 107 points were the most in Independence Bowl history. Ford’s 227 yards receiving on 12 catches set an Independence Bowl record.
Tulsa’s Evans completed 27 of 44 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns. D’Angelo Brewer ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
A relaxed Beamer strolled onto the field about an hour before the game, smiling and waving to fans as the Hokies went through warmups.
Tulsa jumped out to a 14-7 lead, but Virginia Tech responded with 38 points over the next 19 minutes for the 45-21 advantage.
The Hokies’ final touchdown during that stunning run came on a 67-yard punt return by Greg Stroman – which was fitting considering the phrase “Beamer Ball” became common during the coach’s long tenure because of Virginia Tech’s reputation for game-changing special teams plays.
Tulsa has had a tough time on defense all season, giving up 38.6 points per game, including 66 in a loss to Memphis on Oct. 23.
But the brutal performance in the first half was bad even by the Golden Hurricane’s standards. Virginia Tech controlled the line of scrimmage – gaining 370 total yards in the first two quarters – by capitalizing on Tulsa’s missed tackles, blown assignments and shoddy special teams play.
Tulsa scored the final 10 points of the second quarter to pull to 45-31. The 76 combined points easily set the Independence Bowl first-half record.
The Hokies controlled most of the second half, but the Golden Hurricane scored on a 21-yard touchdown from Evans to Josh Atkinson and made the 2-point conversion to pull within 55-45 with 7:35 remaining. A 36-yard touchdown from Evans to Keyarris Garrett with 3:47 left made it 55-52.
But Tulsa’s last gasp drive ended on Nicolas’ sack. The 223-pound defensive end broke through the line and enveloped Evans before slamming him to the turf.
“We just ran out of time,” Tulsa first-year coach Philip Montgomery said. “If we had a few more ticks on the clock, maybe it changes it a little bit. But I’m proud of our football team.”
The win gives Virginia Tech some momentum heading into its coaching transition. The Hokies hired Memphis coach Justin Fuente in late November to replace Beamer.
But on Saturday, it was all about Beamer, who praised his players and Virginia Tech’s administration for sticking with him for 29 seasons and 238 victories.
“I realize how fortunate I’ve been to last this long at Virginia Tech,” Beamer said. “All I am is grateful and looking forward to the next step.”
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