Hokies Football: Virginia Tech Wins 2015 Independence Bowl 55-52 Over Tulsa

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomas1996 | Dec 27, 2015
The Frank Beamer era came to an end today in Shreveport, Louisiana at the 2015 Independence Bowl, the same place where the bowl streak started in 1993. Plenty of Hokies made the trip to Shreveport while many set up shop at home, invited friends over, and celebrated the end of the Beamer era. Near the end of the game, it seemed like that celebration might be ruined but the Hokies found a way to win. In one of the wildest Virginia Tech games in the last few seasons, the Hokies defeated the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes 55-52 to send Frank Beamer out with a victory and a 23rd-straight winning season. It all started with records being shattered in the first half including the most points ever in the first half of a bowl game with 76 combined points. The first quarter may have been the craziest with best teams scoring on their first two possessions within the first minutes to make the game tied at 14. The Hokies got their opening two touchdowns off plays of over 55 yards from Travon McMillian and Isaiah Ford. Eventually, the Hokies were able to get some stops, but didn't stop scoring for a while as they scored 38 points on their first six possessions while Tulsa only put up 7 points in the five possessions after their back-to-back touchdown start. Greg Stroman had the best game of his career returning punts as the sophomore had a big return to set up the Hokies' only first half field goal. In the second quarter, Stroman had his big moment with a 67-yard punt return to put the Hokies up 45-21 against Tulsa, putting Hokie Nation in a euphoric state. Stroman had a fantastic night returning punts with 4 returns for 132 yards while also not having too bad of a night defensively. Tulsa added 10 points before halftime to make it a 45-31 game to break the record for the most combined points scored in the first half of a bowl game. In the second half, the number of points scored decreased, but the craziness still increased. Virginia Tech started off the first half with a 7:22 drive that ended in a touchdown to put the Hokies up 52-31. Virginia Tech then got a defensive stop, and it seemed at that point that the Hokies would cruise to victory. However, Frank Beamer's final game didn't end that easily. Turnovers gave Tulsa a couple good opportunities as a Michael Brewer interception set up a one-play, nine-yard touchdown drive for the Golden Hurricanes which ended in a failed extra point/two-point conversion attempt. Later, J.C. Coleman had a fumble deep in the redzone that would go out of the endzone for a touchback for Tulsa. Despite the fumble, the Hokies got a stop and then went and got a field goal to make it an 18-point lead with 11:09 left after Tulsa dropped what should have been a second interception for Michael Brewer. However, Tulsa changed the game quickly with two touchdown drives in succession including a two-point conversion after the first touchdown. After another failed drive, Virginia Tech punted the ball to Tulsa with 2 minutes left in the game. Virginia Tech fans began to have serious concerns that this game would end in a heartbreaking defeat with the Hokies struggling to contain Tulsa's offense. However, Bud Foster's Lunch Pail defense rose to the occasion on the final drive after having one of its worst games under Foster. Tulsa got one first down, but the Hokies stepped up to stop the Golden Hurricanes with a combined sack on a second down by Dadi Nicolas and Luther Maddy. Then, Nicolas had his last and arguably the biggest sack of his Virginia Tech career on fourth down. Nicolas's game-finishing sack sent the Hokies into that state of euphoria one final time in the Frank Beamer era knowing the job was complete. Shortly after, Beamer got his final Gatorade bath and received the Independence Bowl trophy for the second and final time. For the Hokies, Isaiah Ford was a star and had the best game of his career with 12 receptions for 227 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown plus 3 carries for 23 rushing yards. Ford was a nightmare for the Tulsa defense, and has fans looking forward to 2016 with Justin Fuente getting the chance to take advantage of Ford's skills. With his impressive night, Ford not only became the Hokies' first 1,000 yard receiver but also the first receive to have 75 or more receptions along with being Virginia Tech's first 1,100 yard receiver. Michael Brewer had an up-and-down night as he went 23-for-37 for 344 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. After a 59-yard touchdown run, Travon McMillian was slowed with 16 carries for 82 yards overall. Meanwhile, the Hokies were effective on the ground with plenty of different options and 5 rushing touchdowns from 4 different players and an average of 5.9 yards per carry including 8 carries for 78 yards from J.C. Coleman. In what may be his final game for Virginia Tech, Bucky Hodges was solid with 4 catches for 38 receiving yards and 5 carries out of the Wild Turkey for 27 yards and a touchdown. However, Hodges had a late drop that nearly proved costly for the Hokies though the ball was behind him some. Virginia Tech's defense had a rough night, but Chuck Clark had some big pass breakups and came close to having an interception multiple times. Tremaine Edmunds was fairly quiet but showed tons of promise with 5 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss in what was a strong showing for him defending the run. Mook Reynolds was used all over for the Hokies and seemed to not be too notable in coverage, a good thing on a night where Tulsa QB Dane Vans made his fair share of plays against the Hokies. Reynolds also had a team-leading 9 tackles and has a bright future in a secondary with plenty of potential led by Clark, Brandon Facyson, Terrell Edmunds, and Adonis Alexander. There will be plenty of time to look at the defensive struggles and look ahead to the future but what matters is simply this, Virginia Tech got one final win for the legend who is the reason most of those players are Hokies, Frank Beamer. It's been a wild run over the 29 years that Frank Beamer has led the Hokies, but I don't think there is a single Hokie, whether they've were born before or after Beamer took over, that wouldn't take this. Beamer always thanked the good people around him from his players, coaches, and administrative staff to the fans and donors. However, there is no doubt that all the players, coaches, administrative staff, fans, and donors are just thankful that a good man such as Beamer took us upon an incredible journey over the past 29 years. We're sad that you're no longer our head coach, but we're thankful for all that you've done on the field, and look forward to the future knowing you'll be right there in the stands and in the community supporting Virginia Tech and Southwest Virginia. Knowing this, there is no reason to say goodbye but to simply say this. Thanks Frank.