Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer wasn’t on the sideline Saturday afternoon, but BeamerBall was in full effect during the Hokies' 33-17 win over Cincinnati in the Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman.
Beamer, who had throat surgery earlier this month, watched from the press box as his special teams and defense helped Virginia Tech (7-6) pull away from the Bearcats (9-4) starting late in the second quarter. A long kick return gave the Hokies a short field with 28 seconds remaining in the half. The offense moved it close enough for Joey Slye to hit a 49-yard field goal, giving the Hokies a 13-10 lead heading into the locker room.
Cincinnati doubled Virginia Tech’s total yardage in the first half, but trailed because of a few missed opportunities. The Bearcats missed a field goal on their opening drive and threw an interception in the end zone on their second drive.
After Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer's 1-yard pass to Ryan Malleck made it a 10-point game, a Hokies fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter put it out of reach at 27-10 and knocked Cincinnatti quarterback Gunner Kiel out of the game with a head injury. The American Conference leader in touchdown passes during the regular season finished with 244 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Brewer completed 14 of 24 passes for 94 yards. He also caught a pass on a trick play that set up the Hokies’ first touchdown.
Virginia Tech running back J.C. Coleman added a career-high 157 rushing yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
Game ball goes to: Virginia Tech freshman Greg Stroman contributed to the Hokies' win in all three phases of the game. He scored a touchdown on defense, caught a pass and ran the ball twice on offense, and broke off two punt returns that went longer than 30 yards on special teams. He ended his day by breaking up a fourth-down pass attempt on Cincinnati's final possession of the game.
What it means: Virginia Tech managed to continue its streak of 22 seasons with a winning record despite a disappointing 6-6 regular season. The ACC got its bowl season off to a good start with the victory. Duke, Miami and Boston College all play Saturday as well.
Best play: The Hokies opened up a 27-10 lead thanks to a fumble return for a touchdown. Linebacker Deon Clarke started the play with a sack that pried the ball loose from Kiel. Defensive tackle Nigel Williams scooped up the loose ball near the 40-yard line and rumbled to the end zone’s doorstep before coughing it up. Stroman picked it up from there and plowed his way in for the score.
What’s next: Cincinnati, which won a share of the American title this season, returns a good portion of its roster next season, including Kiel. The Hokies head into the offseason with positive momentum as they look to make a better run at the ACC Coastal Division.