Camping World Independence Bowl: Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Date: Dec. 26, 5:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: Shreveport, Louisiana | Independence Stadium
Best moment: Beating Tulane 45-34. Tulsa needed to beat Tulane to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012. But the Golden Hurricane found themselves down 10 with seven minutes left. Twenty-one unanswered points later, Tulsa was going bowling. Craig Suits had the winning score on a 28-yard pick-6. Kolton Shindelar iced the game with an 89-yard interception return for a score.
Lowest moment: Losing to East Carolina 30-17. There is only one team with a losing record that Tulsa failed to beat this season: East Carolina. Things started poorly after Dane Evans threw an interception that Josh Hawkins returned 100 yards for a touchdown. It only went downhill from there, as East Carolina built a 23-0 lead before Tulsa scored 17 fourth-quarter points.
Key player: WR Keyarris Garrett. Garrett leads the nation with 1,451 yards – more than doubling his total from a year ago (698 yards). He has been a huge beneficiary to the change in offensive philosophy under coach Philip Montgomery, who came in from Baylor. Along the way this season, Garrett set a conference record with 268 yards against Memphis, a game in which he had 14 receptions and three touchdowns. One more note of interest: Two of his touchdown receptions this year have come on Hail Mary plays – against Oklahoma and Memphis.
Motivation level: High. This is the first bowl game many of these players will have the opportunity to play in, and it’s Montgomery’s first year at the helm, so Tulsa should use it as an opportunity to enjoy the moment. There haven’t been many of these the last several years. -- Andrea Adelson
Best moment: Beating Virginia 23-20. Needing a victory to extend its 23-year bowl streak, Virginia Tech went into Charlottesville, Virginia, to try to beat its in-state rival for the 12th consecutive time and clinching a postseason game. Though the Hokies trailed early in the fourth quarter, they scored the final 10 points, including the game-winning field goal from Joey Slye with 1:38 remaining. In the locker room afterward, outgoing legendary coach Frank Beamer hit the Dab. Nothing more needs to be said.
Lowest moment: Nine rushing yards in a 17-13 loss to Pitt. Michael Brewer was missing from the Virginia Tech lineup because of a broken collarbone, but really there was no real excuse for the poor performance of the offense, which finished with 100 total yards, its lowest total since Beamer’s first game with Virginia Tech in 1987. It was the Hokies’ second loss in a row after dropping yet another game to East Carolina, and essentially let it be known that this season was not going to be any different from the previous three.
Key player: Isaiah Ford. There were a few bright spots on offense this season. Ford, an All-ACC first-team receiver, is one of them. The sophomore has a chance at the first 1,000-yard receiving season in school history with 63 yards in the bowl game. Running back Travon McMillian also surged in the second half of the season and has a shot at 1,000 yards rushing with 39 yards in the bowl.
Motivation level: Extremely high. This one is simple to answer. There is nothing the Virginia Tech players and assistant coaches want more than to send Beamer off into the sunset with a win in his final game. Outside of the four playoff teams, there won’t be a more motivated team in the country. -- AA