The final game of the Frank Beamer era has almost arrived at the game where Beamer’s 23-year bowl streak began, the Independence Bowl. The Hokies are heavy favorites against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, and will look to send Beamer out with a victory at the place where Virginia Tech’s impressive bowl streak began.
Despite the fact that the Hokies are two-touchdown favorites, Tulsa has a high-powered offense that will test the Hokies, and will force Virginia Tech to leave it all out on the field to get the job done. With that said, here’s a look at the keys to the game.
Get Consistent Pressure Without Blitzing
Tulsa is tied for 16th in the nation in sacks allowed this season while the Hokies’ defensive line has started to play better over the last few weeks. However, the Hokies’ defensive line has had a disappointing season overall compared to the huge expectations at the beginning of the season.
Against Tulsa, Virginia Tech’s defensive line can play a huge role on the outcome.
Against a weak Tulsa offensive line and high-powered passing attack, the Hokies need to be able to get consistent pressure without having to blitz too often with more than an extra linebacker. The Hokies have the talent on the defensive line, but will need those players to step up today.
Much of that comes down to defensive ends Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem who have had down seasons, but have played better the last month or so. Nicolas has seen his draft stock drop a lot this year, but Nicolas will be ready to have a big game and start to improve his draft stock while Ekanem will be ready to finish strong.
The Hokies will be coming out with plenty of emotion, and the defensive line has been playing better every week led by All-ACC First Team DT Luther Maddy. With the talent the Hokies have on the defensive line, don’t be surprised if Virginia Tech has at least 3 sacks today.
Create Holes For Travon McMillian
The Hokies face a Tulsa rush defense that has been quite bad this season with Tulsa allowing over 5 yards per carry this season to opposing running backs. This seems like a perfect opportunity for Travon McMillian to end his first season with his best game, and push 150 to 200 rushing yards.
However, Virginia Tech’s offensive line will need to avoid overlooking Tulsa’s rush defense and rise to the occasion.
Stacy Searels will have his group of offensive linemen ready for this matchup, knowing that they may not need to much motivation for Frank Beamer’s final game, but remind them that Tulsa will not go down easily. The Hokies’ offensive line has had some inconsistencies, but they have been able to get McMillian some holes to make plays against tough defenses.
Virginia Tech’s offensive line must also remember that they have a tailback in McMillian that can turn one of their holes into a big play in an instant. Having that type of player in the backfield against a weak Tulsa rush defense may give them even more excitement to try and get their tailback a big game today.
Virginia Tech’s offensive line has improved but struggled in 2015, but they will end the season well and give McMillian plenty of holes to work with.
Control Your Emotion
The Virginia Tech Hokies will have plenty of emotion in this game to try and win one more bowl game for Frank Beamer to end his tenure. TEs coach Bryan Stinespring already showed the main reason for the team’s desire to get this win even if Beamer won’t say it.
Some days are just more important than others! This is one of those days#legend
— Coach Stiney (@BryanStiney) December 26, 2015
This is the biggest bowl game in years for the Hokies given the fact that this is it for Beamer, but the Hokies must still play with control and use their emotion to play with control, focus, and intensity. This is not the day to make a stupid penalty that could prove costly against a high-powered Tulsa offense.
It’s time to go win this one for Frank and that involves being in control of your emotions to play with control, focus, and intensity.