Virginia Tech Football: 5 Takeaways from the Hokies' Bowl Game
The Virginia Tech Hokies defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Military Bowl on Saturday to end a disappointing season on a high note. Tech's 33-17 victory featured a little bit of offense, big plays on defense and a spark from the special teams units.
The Hokies finished the 2014 campaign with a record of 7-6, ensuring a 22nd consecutive winning season for legendary head coach Frank Beamer. Beamer, of course, coached the game from the press box after having surgery on his throat earlier in the month. His son, Shane—associate head football coach—filled in admirably for his father on the sideline.
2014 was a tough year for Virginia Tech. Injuries, in particular at running back and offensive line, spoiled a season that got off to a promising start after a Week 2 upset at then-No. 8 Ohio State.
The bowl win over Cincinnati reminded many Virginia Tech fans how the Hokies used to win football games—a strong running game, good defense and making plays on special teams.
Here are five takeaways from Virginia Tech's Military Bowl triumph.
J.C. Coleman Will Be the 2015 Starter at Running Back
J.C. Coleman began 2014 as the starting running back. Last year's leading rusher, Trey Edmunds, wasn't 100 percent at the beginning of the season, so Coleman was the lead back.
He rushed for a combined 36 yards on 13 carries in the first two games before not carrying the ball once in Week 3 versus East Carolina. In fact, Coleman carried the ball only 13 times for 29 yards over the next six games.
Then, injuries depleted the running back position. Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams, both promising true freshmen, suffered torn ACLs. Edmunds would return, only to injure his clavicle and miss the rest of the regular season.
Coleman returned to the lineup and thrived. He rushed for 95 yards in the win at Duke, followed by 98 yards against Wake Forest and 118 yards against Virginia. In the Military Bowl, Coleman ran for 157 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. He was Virginia Tech's offense.
With McKenzie and Williams rehabbing this offseason, Coleman will compete with Edmunds to be Virginia Tech's starting tailback in 2015.
Coleman proved he deserved to be the top guy heading into spring practice in April.
Special Teams Made a Big Impact
Where was Der'Woun Greene all year?
The sophomore safety became Tech's primary kick returner in the Military Bowl, replacing Deon Newsome and Demitri Knowles, and had two big returns for a combined 73 yards. His 46-yard return just before the half set up a field goal that proved to be the difference in the game.
And what about kicker Joey Slye?
The freshman connected on all four attempts, including one from 49 yards out and another from 45. He set not only a personal career high, but tied a Virginia Tech bowl record with four field goals in a game and a new Military Bowl record for longest field goal.
Beamerball was back on Saturday.
Greg Stroman Looks Like a Player
Greg Stroman received some work on offense in practice last week with the suspension of Deon Newsome and Joshua Stanford no longer on the team. The freshman cornerback took advantage of his snaps on offense in a major way.
Stroman carried the ball twice for 17 yards, caught one pass, returned a punt for 37 yards, broke up one pass on defense and scored on a fumble return in the second half.
Stroman was everywhere.
The cornerback may have stated his case to be more of a fixture on offense in 2015. Even if Stroman doesn't play offense next season, Virginia Tech coaches know what type of playmaker they have in the first-year defensive back/return man.
Scot Loeffler Called a Good Game
Yes, you read that right, Hokies offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler called a good game.
The offensive coordinator is usually the most unpopular coach or figure on any given team. That's no different in Blacksburg. Fans complained for years about former coordinator—and current tight ends coach—Bryan Stinespring.
Loeffler has received a ton of criticism this season, and rightfully so. But against Cincinnati, Loeffler called his best game of the season.
Playing with a severely beat-up offensive line and short on wide receivers, Loeffler tried a little bit of everything against the Bearcats. He called reverses, end-arounds and even had freshman receiver Isaiah Ford hit quarterback Michael Brewer for a 30-yard play that set up Tech's first touchdown.
Loeffler stuck with the run and didn't put Brewer in too many high-risk situations.
For one Saturday, Loeffler deserved a game ball. He was terrific.
Frank Beamer Can Dance
Much was made of Frank Beamer's health before the bowl game. Beamer, who had throat surgery on December 6, didn't join the team until the day before the bowl game.
However, the win, according to Beamer (in a prepared statement read by son Shane), was one of the most memorable of his tenure as head coach, per Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times:
I’ve had many proud moments in my time at Virginia Tech, but this is one of my proudest. When you consider the constant adversity that we’ve had to endure this season, it’s just rewarding that we believed in one another and continued to fight our way through it. I want to personally thank the players and the coaching staff for their focus and hard work going into and through this bowl game.
It's good to see Beamer up and moving around. He's not only one of the greatest coaches in the recent history of college football, but also a good, honorable man. The Hokies have gone through some trying times in recent years, and for the first time in close to 20 years, Beamer has felt a bit of heat.
Saturday's win, even for a brief time, felt good for Hokie Nation, and Beamer earned the right to dance.