The final game of the Frank Beamer era has almost arrived as the Virginia Tech Hokies are beginning to make their final preparations for their matchup with the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes in the 2015 Independence Bowl. The Hokies are almost two-touchdown favorites against Tulsa, but the Hokies will have to be ready for the Golden Hurricanes’ high-powered offense that got them to a bowl game.
Tulsa’s defense has been one of the worst in the nation, but head coach Phillip Montgomery has transformed the offense into a high-powered passing attack that Bud Foster will have to be ready for. With that said, here’s a look at some of the key matchups in the 2015 Independence Bowl.
VT CB Brandon Facyson vs. Tulsa WR Keyarris Garrett
This may be the best individual matchup in this game with one of the best receivers you haven’t heard of in Keyarris Garrett facing one of the ACC’s best cornerbacks in Brandon Facyson. Terrell Edmunds may also be lined up against Garrett some in this game, but expect the Hokies to have Facyson matched up with Garrett as often as possible in this game.
Both Facyson and Garrett have above-average size for their positions with Garrett being 6’4” and Facyson being 6’2”. Garrett has had a very impressive season with 88 receptions for 1,451 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, which includes five games of over 150 receiving yards against some very good teams including Oklahoma, Memphis, and Cincinnati.
Facyson has faced some talented wide receivers since taking over as the number 1 cornerback, but Garrett stacks up as one of the top two or three. Facyson has been one of the best cornerbacks in the ACC with only 34.1% of targets thrown towards Facyson being completed. There have also been multiple games when Facyson is almost forgotten about because of how well Facyson has covered some opponents.
If Facyson can win this matchup against Garrett, Dane Evans and Tulsa’s potent passing attack will be in for a much larger challenge than expected.
VT RB Travon McMillian vs. Tulsa’s Front 7
Tulsa has had one of the worst rushing defenses in the country this season as the Golden Hurricanes are allowing 5.2 yards per carry this season, ranking them 112th in the nation. Meanwhile, Travon McMillian has had plenty of time to rest up for Virginia Tech, and will be ready for this matchup against Tulsa.
McMillian didn’t become the Hokies’ starting running back till after their win over N.C. State, but has been tremendous since, and not only earned All-ACC Third Team honors from the media, but is also 39 rushing yards away from become Virginia Tech’s first 1,000 rusher since David Wilson.
McMillian’s ceiling is huge, and the redshirt freshman has already said that his goal for next season is to have 1,800 rushing yards. However, McMillian still has one more game this season and if the offensive line can provide him some holes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see McMillian have a big game and surpass the 1,100 rushing yard mark.
McMillian is a big-play machine that has developed into a fairly complete running back with great speed. With Tulsa’s struggles defending the run this season, no one should be surprised if McMillian has more than 150 yards on the ground in this game if the Hokies can win the war in the trenches consistently.
VT DC Bud Foster vs. Tulsa HC Phillip Montgomery
Phillip Montgomery has quickly turned Tulsa’s offense into a high-octane spread passing attack that has been very effective throughout the season, and is the reason why the Golden Hurricanes are 6-6 despite having one of the nation’s worst defenses. In this game, Montgomery will face the best defensive coordinator he’s gone against all season in Bud Foster.
Foster’s defense has had a down year in 2015, but has paid significantly better over the past two weeks, and only allowed North Carolina to score 24 points in regulation in the final home game of the season. Despite some early struggles, Foster’s defense has definitely improved with younger players stepping up including Adonis Alexander and Terrell Edmunds.
The Hokies only gave up more than 25 points in regulation three times this season against Ohio State, at East Carolina, and at Miami. Meanwhile, Tulsa’s offense has only scored more than 30 points in regulation in nine of their 12 regular season games this season.
This matchup between the offensive smarts of Montgomery and the defensive smarts of Foster has the potential to be one of the top coaching matchups of the first half of the bowl season. This will be a chess match to watch in this game as Foster and Montgomery both will be ready to do everything they can to beat the other in this matchup.