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Hokies' uncharacteristic win sends Frank Beamer out with a victory

SHREVEPORT, La. -- Addressing the media for the final time as Virginia Tech head coach, Frank Beamer was in a jovial mood Saturday night.

“First time I came to Shreveport, I left here a happy guy,” said Beamer, who coached his first bowl game in the Independence Bowl in 1993. “Last time I come to Shreveport, I leave here a happy guy. I’m going to come to Shreveport just for the hell of it. I like it down here.”

As the laughter ensued, Beamer beamed, taking in his final moments as the face of Virginia Tech football.

His Virginia Tech team made sure he walked off the field for the final time as a winner, holding off Tulsa’s fourth-quarter comeback to secure a 55-52 victory in the Camping World Independence Bowl. It was a record-setting contest that started with fireworks -- in the form of four touchdowns in the first four minutes -- before ending with Virginia Tech’s defense stepping up in the final moments, sacking Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans twice on the Golden Hurricane’s final possession. Hokies defensive end Dadi Lhomme Nicolas accounted for 1.5 of those sacks.

“We haven’t been in many games like this,” Beamer said of the high-scoring bowl game that saw the two teams combine for 107 points, 1,161 total yards and 57 first downs. “It was different. All I know is we won the football game and it was exciting.”

The Hokies hadn’t scored more than 30 points since a 45-43 loss to Duke on Oct. 24 but scored on their first seven possessions against Tulsa, including six touchdowns. Virginia Tech scored 55 points in the first 50 minutes of the game but had to lean on its defense to hold off a late Tulsa comeback.

“We didn’t expect it to turn into a shootout like that,” quarterback Michael Brewer said.

Virginia Tech (7-6) found a way to win, even if it took the unusual route on a night Brewer will never forget. Yet his fond memories will have nothing to do with his season-high 344 passing yards.

“Four or five years ago, I never would have thought I get to quarterback Coach Beamer’s last football game,” said Brewer, who got emotional during postgame interviews and gave Beamer a big hug before leaving the stage. “It’s something to be proud of, something to hang my hat on. I’m the only one who can say that. I’m extremely grateful.”

The win was Beamer’s 280th career victory. He finishes his career with a record of 280-144-4 in 35 seasons, including a 238-121-2 record in 29 seasons at Virginia Tech.

“It feels like a old man, a lot of fourth quarters,” he joked when asked how it felt to get to 280 wins.

Beamer is an endangered species in college football these days. It’s rare to see a coach last in one place for 29 seasons. Not only did Beamer do it, he left on his own terms, victory in hand.

“A great way to finish this thing off,” Beamer said. “I’m a fortunate guy. To stay at one place in this business? I’m kind of amazed myself; I would have kicked myself out of there a long time ago. I’m grateful and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”