Frank Beamer will coach in his final game Saturday as he leads Virginia Tech against Tulsa in the Independence Bowl. Here's what you need to know for today's game:
Camping World Independence Bowl
Virginia Tech vs. Tulsa
1. End of an era
The big story surrounding Virginia Tech is of course the retirement of their long-time head coach. Beamer has been at the helm in Blacksburg for 29 seasons, leading the Hokies to 10 or more wins 13 times, a bowl game in 23 of his 29 seasons and seven conference championships. Saturday will be his final game as head coach of a program he built into a national power.
2. Where it all began
Beamer has led Virginia Tech to a bowl game in 23 consecutive seasons so it is only fitting that his final game should come in the Independence Bowl, the same Bowl game that launched the bowl streak. Virginia Tech played in the Independence Bowl game in 1993, a 45-20 win over Indiana, and have played in a bowl game every year since. To celebrate, Virginia Tech will wear throwback helmets and the same jersey/pant combination they wore in the 1993 game.
3. Three players suspended
The team announced Thursday that seniors Deon Clarke, Kevin Asante and Demitri Knowles have been suspended and will not play in Saturday's game. Knowles did not travel with the team to Shreveport after being late for meetings in Blacksburg, according to Mike Barber. Clarke and Asante were suspended for unspecified violations. Of the three, Clarke's absence will hurt the most as a starter. Tremaine Edmunds will start in his place.
4. A tough offense
The biggest obstacle to a win in Beamer's finale is an explosive Tulsa offense. The offense carried the Golden Hurricane to a bowl bid this season despite a weak defense. Tulsa averages over 35 points per game thanks largely to quarterback Dane Evans and receiver Keyarris Garrett. The offense did so well in fact that Texas hired away offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and offensive line coach Matt Mattox. This game will largely be decided by what Tulsa's offense is able to do against Bud Foster's squad. Will Tulsa be as offensively dominant without Gilbert?
5. Virginia Tech heavily favored
Vegas is pretty confident in the Hokies. Virginia Tech is favored by 14 heading into this game which is the largest spread among all bowl games.
You can't doubt Virginia Tech's motivation heading into this game. When a big name program gets invited to a bowl game like the Independence Bowl against a non-power opponent, it's not unusual to see the power program mail it in. With this being Beamer's final game, that's not going to happen. Does that mean Virginia Tech will win by 14? Not necessarily. That's a really big spread for a team that has not looked dominant this season. Virginia Tech's offense has been inconsistent and the defense relatively weak, at least by Foster's lofty standards. Looking at their last five games, however, Virginia Tech is hitting its stride. They won three of those games with both of their losses coming in overtime. You also have to wonder how Tulsa's offense will look without their offensive coordinator.
A motivated Virginia Tech team was able to force overtime against Coastal champion North Carolina, they should be able to beat Tulsa especially with questions about the Golden Hurricane's offense.
Virginia Tech 31 - Tulsa 24
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