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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.

ACC coaches tab Deshaun Watson as Player of the Year

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The media, rightly, thought highly of Deshaun Watson when doling out its postseason awards.  Now, the league’s coaches are following suit.

The ACC Wednesday announced its all-league selections and honors as voted on by its head coaches, with the Clemson quarterback taking home the conference’s overall Player of the Year award.  Additionally, and not surprisingly, Watson was named as the Offensive Player of the Year.

Watson received 10 of the 14 first-place votes for overall Player of the Year, with Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams splitting the other two votes.  Watson received 11 first-place votes for the offensive award, followed by Williams’ two and Cook’s one.

Watson’s counterpart on the other side of the ball, Duke safety Jeremy Cash, was named Defensive Player of the Year, while Watson’s sideline boss, Dabo Swinney, took home Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Tigers to a perfect regular season and top seed in the College Football Playoff.  Cash received six first-place votes — Clemson’s Shaq Lawson had five — while Swinney’s 11 easily outdistanced North Carolina’s Larry Fedora‘s three.

Pittsburgh safety Jordan Whitehead was selected as the Defensive Rookie of the Year (nine first-place votes), while his teammate, running back Qadree Ollison, was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year (eight).  With five first-place votes each, Ollison and Whitehead were named co-Rookies of the Year.

Below are the first- and second-team offenses and defenses, again as selected by the conference’s coaches.  One note: coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players for any of the honors. In that vein, Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd, with 39 votes (first-place votes are worth three points), was as close to a unanimous first-team selection as you can get, with Cook’s 38 votes not far behind.

First-Team Offense
WR Tyler Boyd, Jr., Pitt (39)
WR Artavis Scott, So., Clemson (34)
WR Isaiah Ford, So., Virginia Tech (26)
TE Jordan Leggett, Jr., Clemson (22)
T Roderick Johnson, So., Florida State (33)
T Adam Bisnowaty, Jr.-R, Pitt (30)
G Landon Turner, Sr., North Carolina (36)
G Eric Mac Lain, Sr.-R, Clemson (30)
C Matt Skura, Sr.-R, Duke (35)
QB Deshaun Watson, So., Clemson (37)
RB Dalvin Cook, So., Florida State (38)
RB Wayne Gallman, So.-R, Clemson (30)
K Roberto Aguayo, Jr.-R, Florida State (32)
Sp. Ryan Switzer, Jr., North Carolina (29)

Second-Team Offense
WR Stacey Coley, Jr., Miami (20)
WR Kermit Whitfield, Jr., Florida State (20)
WR Canaan Severin, Sr., Virginia (17)
TE(tie) Jaylen Samuels, So., NC State ( 15)
TE(tie) Bucky Hodges, So.-R, Virginia Tech (15)
T Jon Heck, Jr.-R, North Carolina (19)
T Joe Thuney, Sr.-R, NC State (19)
G Dorian Johnson, Jr., Pitt (19)
G Caleb Peterson, Jr.-R, North Carolina (17)
C Jay Guillermo, Jr.-R, Clemson (14)
QB Marquise Williams, Sr., North Carolina (23)
RB Elijah Hood, So., North Carolina (29)
RB Qadree Ollison, Fr.-R, Pitt (20)
K Ross Martin, Sr., Duke (14)
Sp. DeVon Edwards, Jr.-R, Duke (23)

First-Team Defense
DE Shaq Lawson, Jr.-R, Clemson (35)
DE Ejuan Price, Sr.-R, Pitt (25)
DT Connor Wujciak, Sr., Boston College (28)
DT Nile Lawrence-Stample, Sr.-R, Florida State (27)
LB Steven Daniels, Sr., Boston College ( 28)
LB Brandon Chubb, Sr.-R, Wake Forest (24)
LB Ben Boulware, Jr., Clemson (24)
CB Jalen Ramsey, Jr., Florida State (36)
CB Mackensie Alexander, So.-R, Clemson (29)
S Jeremy Cash, Sr.-R, Duke (36)
S Jayron Kearse, Jr., Clemson (28)
P Alex Kinal, Sr.-R, Wake Forest (19)

Second-Team Defense
DE Mike Rose, Sr.-R, NC State (16)
DE Sheldon Rankins, Sr., Louisville (14)
DT Luther Maddy, Sr.-R, Virginia Tech (26)
DT Carlos Watkins, Jr.-R, Clemson (17)
LB Keith Kelsey, Jr., Louisville (20)
LB Micah Kiser, So.-R, Virginia (19)
LB(tie) Dwayne Norman, Sr., Duke (17)
LB(tie) Reggie Northrup, Sr., Florida State (17)
CB Artie Burns, Jr., Miami (26)
CB Des Lawrence, Jr., North Carolina (11)
S Quin Blanding, So., Virginia (21)
S Justin Simmons, Sr., Boston College ( 16)
P Riley Dixon, Sr., Syracuse (17)

UNC clinches ACC Coastal Division and spoils Beamer’s home finale in overtime

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It looked as though No. 17 North Carolina (10-1, 7-0 ACC) was well on its way to wrapping up the ACC Coastal Division in Blacksburg, but sometimes winning in Lane Stadium against the Virginia Tech Hokies (5-6, 4-3 ACC) is never as easy as it seems. The Tar Heels gave up two late fourth quarter touchdowns to the Hokies and would need to win it in overtime. Ryan Switzer caught an 18-yard touchdown from Marquise Williams on UNC’s possession of overtime to capture the win and the ACC Coastal Division championship.

Down 24-10 with just under five minutes to play, Virginia Tech quickly moved down the field after starting at their 37-yard line. Michael Brewer‘s 25-yard pass to Sam Rogers got the Hokies in UNC territory and a 26-yard pass to Isaiah Ford two plays later took them to the 11. Bucky Hodges would haul in an eight-yard pass on a fourth down from the eight-yard line for a touchdown to cut the UNC lead to one. UNC fumbled away the football on the ensuing drive, and Brewer again found Ford for a big play a few plays later. A short touchdown pass to Ford tied the game at 24-24 with 1:07 to play. The game would go to overtime, thanks in part to a bizarre timeout called by Larry Fedora on the UNC sideline.

North Carolina still has one more game to play before getting set to take on Clemson in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte in two weeks. UNC visits North Carolina State in Raleigh next week to conclude the regular season. North Carolina can keep some outside playoff hopes alive with a win next week.

The Tar Heels have never played for the ACC Championship. Since the championship game was introduced by the ACC in 2005, only Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke have represented the Coastal Division in the championship game. Virgina Tech was the last Coastal team to win the ACC when it topped Florida State in 2010. Coastal champs are 3-11 in the title game, with Clemson or Florida State winning each of the past four seasons (Florida State has won the last three).

Of course, the loss also carries a bit of an additional sour note for Virginia Tech. This was the last home game to be coached by longtime Hokies head coach Frank Beamer. Beamer announced his retirement that will be effective at the end of the season. Beamer’s Hokies now must win next week’s game against Virginia in order to keep Virginia Tech’s season going. Virginia Tech needs one more win to become bowl eligible this season. Beamer has taken Virginia Tech to the postseason every year since 1993.

Virginia Tech scores 17 straight for halftime lead on Ohio State

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Ohio State looked unstoppable on its first eight plays from scrimmage tonight in Blacksburg. Eight offensive plays into the night, Ohio State was up 14-0 thanks to a nice touchdown pass from starting quarterback Cardale Jones and an 80-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott. Since then the Virginia Tech Hokies have chipped away and taken a surprising lead, 17-10.

Ohio State got on the board on its first offensive possession of thew night, with Urban Meyer sending Jones out to lead the offense. Seven plays later Jones was celebrating his first touchdown pass of the season, this one to Curtis Samuel from just outside the red zone. Ohio State wasted no time getting back on the board on its next possession. Eliott broke free for an 80-yard touchdown up the middle fo the defense, surging Ohio State to a commanding 14-0 lead. Converted wide receiver Braxton Miller even got in the stat sheet with his first catch of the season showing off some good concentration and hands on a 24-yard gain. Ohio State’s offense has hit a bit of a wall though with the next three possessions resulting in a missed field goal, an interception off a tipped pass and a punt.

Virginia Tech was not without its own little wrinkles on offense. Early in the second quarter Michael Brewer completed a wheel route pass to fullback Sam Rogers down the left sideline, and the shifty fullback did the rest of the work. Rogers raced down field and reached the end zone after making an Ohio State defender (Eli Apple) break his ankles. After missing a 50-yard field goal try earlier in the half, Joey Slye cut into the Ohio State lead with a 46-yard field goal. Following the special teams mistake by Elliott of Ohio State, Brewer went deep to Isaiah Ford for 36 yards to the door step of Ohio State’s end zone. Brewer found a wide open Ryan Malleck in the end zone for the go-ahead lead.

Ohio State will get the football to begin the second half.