Frank Beamer went out with an offensive explosion.
In the final game of Beamer’s 29-season tenure as Virginia Tech head coach, the Hokies broke out for 598 yards of offense – a season high – in a 55-52 Independence Bowl win over Tulsa.
The Hokies scored five touchdowns on the ground, but were led by sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Ford, who had 12 catches for 227 yards – both career highs. Of Virginia Tech’s 55 points, 45 came in the first half as the Hokies jumped out to a 45-31 halftime lead. That 76 combined points between the two teams marks the largest point total in one half in bowl history.
Both defenses regained their footing in the second half and Tulsa made things interesting late. The Hokies’ lead, which was as big as 52-31 midway through the third, evaporated. A Dane Evans 36-yard touchdown pass to Keyarris Garrett with 3:47 to go cut the Hokies’ lead to 55-52.
On its ensuing possession, Virginia Tech was able to pick up one first down, but the much-maligned Tulsa defense eventually forced a punt, allowing the offense to regain possession from its own 20 with 2:00 to go.
The Golden Hurricane offense quickly moved to midfield, but a pair of Hokies seniors, Luther Maddy and Dadi Nicolas, registered two huge sacks to force a turnover on downs. The ball then went back into the hands of the Hokies offense, and quarterback Michael Brewer kneeled twice to seal the victory.
Both teams started the game off on fire offensively. Tulsa’s D’Angelo Brewer broke off a 48-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the game. Three plays later, Virginia Tech’s Travon McMillian did the same, this time from 51 yards.
Tulsa’s Zack Langer was in the end zone less than a minute later, and sure enough, the Hokies needed just one play – a 75-yard touchdown pass from Brewer to Ford – to tie the game at 14 after just 3:18 of play.
A frenetic pace continued as the half progressed, but the Hokies were able to force a few Tulsa punts – one of which was returned 67 yards for a touchdown by Greg Stroman – and build a 45-31 halftime lead.
The Hokies slowed things down to start the second half. On the first possession of the third quarter, Tech crawled its way down the field. The Hokies went 81 yards in 15 plays, taking 7:22 off the clock in the process. The drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown run by Trey Edmunds, extending the lead to a comfortable 52-31.
Aside from a 41-yard Joey Slye field goal, the VT offense went into cruise control mode the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Tulsa was able to slowly chip away at the lead. Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans (374 yards, 3 TDs) scored on a nine-yard run late in the third and threw touchdown passes to his two favorite targets – Joshua Atkinson (11 catches for 139 yards) and Keyarris Garrett (8 catches for 137 yards) – late in the fourth, but the Golden Hurricane could not quite spoil Beamer’s sendoff.
The win gives the Hokies a 7-6 record for the season, continuing the program’s streak of consecutive winning seasons to 23. And Frank Beamer, in the 23rd bowl appearance of his storied career, walked off the field for the final time as a winner.