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Hokies send Frank Beamer into retirement a winner

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Frank Beamer began his postseason Virginia Tech tenure with a win in Shreveport, La.  More than two decades later, as a Hall of Fame career comes to a close, the beloved Hokie head coach has literally come full circle.

In a wild affair that will serve as one of the most entertaining in what right now is a week-old bowl season, Tech used a record-setting first half to pave the way for a record-setting 55-52 win over Tulsa in the 40th Independence Bowl.  This was the 23rd straight season, all under Beamer, that Tech has played in a bowl, the second-longest streak in the country behind Florida State’s 34.  The first of those 23 bowl appearances?  Against Indiana… in the 18th Independence Bowl.

Beamer, who announced his retirement earlier this year in his 29th season as his alma mater’s head coach, finishes his stellar career with 280 wins, fourth all-time behind a trio of FBS coaching legends — Penn State’s Joe Paterno (409), Florida State’s Bobby Bowden (377) and Alabama’s Bear Bryant (323).  With the twin retirements of Beamer and Steve Spurrier (228), there is no active head coach with 200 or more wins; Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, with 193, is the closest to hitting that plateau.

In those 23 straight bowl games mentioned earlier, Beamer’s Hokies went 11-12.  This year marked the second consecutive bowl win for Tech, just the second time Beamer’s gone back-to-back with victories in the postseason (2008 Orange Bowl, 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl).  And, unlike most of his other wins in both the regular and postseasons, this one wasn’t predicated on defense and special teams — even as the famed Beamerball made a brief first-half appearance in two quarters of play that were the absolute antithesis of the vast majority of Beamer’s time in Blacksburg.

In those first two quarters, the Hokies and Golden Hurricane combined for more than 700 yards of offense and 76 points as Tech took a 45-31 lead into the halftime locker room.  Those 45 points for Tech tied the Independence Bowl record for a half… first set by Tech in Beamer’s 1993 appearance in the game.  It was also a historic one-half performance regardless of the bowl venue:

In the second half, things calmed down, relatively speaking and ever so briefly, as the Hokies held a 52-31 lead with under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.  However, three Dane Evans touchdowns — two passing, one rushing — offset by just a single VT field goal pulled the Golden Hurricane to within three with 3:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Golden Hurricane, following a Hokies punt with two minutes remaining, had one more opportunity for at least a game-tying field goal, and got to the their own 46-yard line with 1:27 remaining before Beamer’s lunch-pail defense…

… produced sacks on second and fourth down to officially seal that 280th and final win for their head coach.

The two teams ended up combining for 1,161 yards of offense — 598 for Tech, 563 for Tulsa.  Evans passed for a game-high 374 yards, while Tech’s Michael Brewer passed for 344; that marked Brewer’s second career 300-yard game, with the first (345 yards) coming last November against Boston College.

227 of Brewer’s yards were caught by Isaiah Ford, setting an Independence Bowl record for receiving yards in a game.  A pair of Golden Hurricane receivers went for 100-plus — Joshua Atkinson (139) and Keyarris Garrett (137).

Tech finishes the 2015 season at 7-6, the second straight year the Hokies have finished with that record.  The 14 wins are the fewest in back-to-back seasons since Tech won 11 games in 1992 (2-8-1) and 1993 (9-3) in Beamer’s second and third seasons with the football program.

Tulsa, meanwhile, ended 2015 at 6-7, marking their third straight year with a sub-.500 record.  This is the first time since a stretch from 1992-2002 that the Golden Hurricane had finished below .500 in three or more consecutive seasons.

Ole Mis AD: Hugh Freeze would’ve been fired for cause if he hadn’t resigned

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In the end, regardless of how he chose to play it out, Hugh Freeze‘s time in Oxford would’ve come to an end.

Thursday night brought the stunning news that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  Freeze, to Yahoo! Sports, blamed the call on a misdial; Freeze’s now-former boss, athletic director Ross Bjork, led the same website to write that “further vetting of Freeze’s phone records disclosed a ‘pattern of conduct’ that led the school administration to confront Freeze this week.”

After meeting with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, the die had been cast for the coach.

Bjork said that if Freeze had not offered his resignation he would have been fired for cause, citing the “moral turpitude” clause in Freeze’s contract. Bjork said there was no buyout of the contract and no settlement.

“He admitted that conduct to us,” Bjork said. “None of us are perfect. Nobody in this room is perfect. I think we need to respect how he resigned and respect his privacy.

The infamous call in question — it lasted one minute, which gives at least some credence to Freeze’s claim that this one was a misdial — came to light as a result of Houston Nutt’s recently-filed lawsuit against Freeze, the university and other high-ranking school officials.  No other calls to that specific phone number were found in a review of an estimated 39,000 calls made from Freeze’s school-issued phone; “[h]owever, the school kept digging through the records and must have found additional troubling information,” the website wrote

Freeze’s admission to “that conduct” according to Bjork says as much.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigns after discovery of phone calls to escort service

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Forget about Hugh Freeze being on the hot seat in Oxford. He won’t even be coaching a single game for the Rebels this fall.

Hugh Freeze resigned from his position as head coach at Ole Miss suddenly on Thursday evening, just a week after SEC Media Days. The resignation is effective immediately, and the school has announced co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over the head coaching responsibilities for the upcoming season as the interim head coach. It should be expected Ole Miss will conduct a search for a new full-time head coach as soon as possible, but an official hire being made before the start of the season remains in question.

The resignation comes after the school discovered a phone call to an escort service coming from his school-issued cell phone. And it apparently was not an accidental wrong number either.

According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Ole Miss reviewed phone records tied to Freeze as far back as 2012. Earlier in the day, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken reported Freeze had made a phone call to the number associated with a female escort service. The phone call in the report occurred in January of 2016. How many phone calls were discovered by Ole Miss is at this time unknown. Once confronted with the phone numbers by Bjork, Freeze is said to have offered his resignation. Whether he voluntarily offered to resign or if he was pushed to resign by the school may never be known for sure, but given the heat on Freeze already following recent headlines it may be pretty easy to see how this all played out behind closed doors.

It has been a troublesome summer for Freeze. Just last week, he was targetted in a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, and Freeze has had to deny any members of his staff knowingly violated any NCAA rules following an investigation into the program. Freeze was previously targeted in a lawsuit filed by the stepdad of former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil just months after the NCAA discovered 13 violations against the Ole Miss program under the leadership of Freeze last year.

In five seasons at Ole Miss, Freeze was 39-25 and coached Ole Miss to a 2-1 record in postseason bowl games. Along the way, he recruited some of the best classes in school history, although how he and his staff managed to do so has been the subject of plenty of scrutinies and the findings continue to come together to suggest foul play was used. Calls to escort services will not help that look at all. Before being hired at Ole Miss, Freeze coached Arkansas State to a 19-3 record in 2011.

Luke, an Ole Miss alum from the Class of 2000, joined the Ole Miss coaching staff in 2012 with Freeze.

Todd Graham subtly names Manny Wilkins starting QB at ASU, says Barnett will have to win the job

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Arizona State picked up a nice addition to the depth chart with the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett this past winter. Barnett was given the chance to be immediately eligible to play for Arizona State this season rather than have to sit out a season, but he will have to get to work in order to win the starting job with the Sun Devils if Todd Graham‘s latest comments are accurate.

Speaking to media today at a facilities tour, Graham was asked about the quarterback competition. Graham not-so-subtly named Manny Wilkins the team’s starter for the 2017 season, barring any other changes between now and the start of the season.

“I didn’t make an announcement, I just didn’t want our opponent know who was going to play but I thought our opponent knew, I think everybody knew,” Graham said, referring to a season-opening game against New Mexico State. “We have a returning starter and he’s the starting quarterback until someone beats him out.”

Perhaps most notably, one of the quarterbacks who will look to knock Wilkins off the top of the depth chart will be Barnett, the transfer from Alabama who was a major recruit for the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Barnett started the  2016 season as Alabama’s official starter but lost the full-time job to Jalen Hurts right out of the gate with a shaky performance in the season opener while Hurts put on a show (and led Alabama to the national championship game). Barnett then opted to leave the program in search of a new opportunity to compete for the starting job.

“Right now, we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows he has to beat him out,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to see that competition and a very physical, Sun Devil tough training camp.”

Report: Alabama RB B.J. Emmons, CB Aaron Robinson leaving program

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The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be hurting on the depth chart as a result, but two players are leaving the program in search of other opportunities. Running back B.J. Emmons and cornerback Aaron Robinson are both leaving Tuscaloosa, according to a report from AL.com.

As the news was breaking, multiple reports say Emmons has enrolled at Hutchinson Community College. Emmons missed some games last season due to a foot injury, but he is expected to be back to 100 percent health this fall. Of course, at Alabama, the running back position is stacked and difficult to get much playing time to begin with. Robinson was also expected to be a backup for Alabama this fall after working with the second team unit in the spring.

Emmons was Alabama’s fifth-leading rusher in 2016 with 173 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Robinson appeared in 13 games and recorded five total tackles as a freshman.

Both Emmons and Robinson will be eligible to play for another FBS program starting in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season, due to NCAA transfer rules. They are eligible to play at a lower division school this fall, whether it is an FCS or lower program or a junior college. The junior college route appears to be the path Emmons is taking by enrolling at a community college.