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Camping World Independence Bowl: Virginia Tech vs Tulsa on Boxing Day

It's the Camping World Independence Bowl. We preview the game, and look at what it's going to take for the Hokies to give Coach Beamer a Boxing Day victory gift.

Saturday it's all about Frank Beamer and his Hokies.
Saturday it's all about Frank Beamer and his Hokies.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it's Christmas Eve, and the world has tuned down a bit.  All of the preparation and hubbub of the holiday build up are pretty much over.  The presents are wrapped, and the Holiday Eve dinner has been cleaned up.  The family has "White Christmas" on the DVD Player, and there is the smell of baking cookies wafting in the air.

It's all of the wonderful things about being home for the holidays; with the addition of one little thing.  In the UK and Canada (not so much there anymore - American Christmas traditions are standardizing.) there is a tradition that the day of Christmas is held for more solemn considerations. It's a religious holiday, after all.  Consequently, the practice of distributing and opening presents was done on Boxing Day.  Well, we in Hokie Nation have a Boxing Day treat to open.  At 5:45 PM or so on Saturday December 26th, all the Hokies snug in their own houses or in the stands in Shreveport, Louisiana, will be presented with something very special;  a Football Bowl Game.

The Independence Bowl, now sponsored by the Camping World, will kick off, and we will see the final game of future College Football Hall of Fame coach and much beloved Hokie, Frank Beamer.  It will also be the final game for quite a few folks; both players and staff.  We have a series about the comings and goings of what the team will look like come Spring of 2016, but suffice it to say the team will be intact for one more game on Saturday.

There will be much at stake in this game for both teams.  Tulsa has had a tough season, they have struggled almost as much as we have.   Their offense is led by Keyarris Garrett.  He is a potent receiver who will definitely be attracting attention at the next level, but for now, Tech has to figure out a way to keep him from being a feature of the Tulsa offense.  A unit, by the way, that scores more points and has generated more yards than the Hokies have this season.

The Golden Hurricane does have two weaknesses that the Hokies can definitely exploit.  First, the Tech Offense, when Michael Brewer is allowed to control the flow of the plays, and concentrates on runs with Travon McMillian, play action off those runs, combined with zone defeating passing to Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges, Ryan Malleck, and Cam Phillips has the potential to move the ball and score points.   Second, the Tech defense is like nothing Tulsa has seen much of this season.  With the exception of Navy, the Hurricane hasn't really run into a flock of angry turkeys.   There will be quite a few Hokies looking to make a final appearance on the pro draft charts.  Luther Maddy and Dadi Nicholas really need to remind the next level that they are worth taking a chance on.

It's important to remember that Tulsa can move the ball.  It can score fast, so it's important for the Hokies to maintain possession and get 3rd and impossible situations for stops.  Sure, that's goes for every game, but when faced with an explosive offense the best defense is keeping it off of the field.

For a look at the final regular season stats for both of these 6-6 Teams let's take a look at the ESPN charts:

Virginia Tech Hokies 2015 Season Wrap:

Passing Statistics

NAME

Complete

Attempts

Yards

Comp%

Yds/A

TD

INT

RAT

Michael Brewer

103

179

1359

57.5

7.59

12

6

136.7

Brenden Motley

92

164

1155

56.1

7.04

11

7

128.9

Dwayne Lawson

3

9

51

33.3

5.67

0

0

80.9

Isaiah Ford

1

2

14

50.0

7.00

0

0

108.8

Sam Rogers

1

1

13

100.0

13.00

0

0

209.2

Totals

200

356

2592

56.2

7.28

23

13

131.4

Rushing Statistics

NAME

Carries

Yards

Average

Long

TD

Travon McMillian

184

960

5.2

63

5

Sam Rogers

55

227

4.1

29

1

Brenden Motley

88

224

2.5

22

3

Trey Edmunds

45

174

3.9

35

2

J.C. Coleman

40

132

3.3

10

1

Dwayne Lawson

14

55

3.9

10

1

Shai McKenzie

13

50

3.8

11

0

Isaiah Ford

4

28

7.0

10

0

Chris Durkin

4

25

6.3

9

0

Cam Phillips

1

24

24.0

24

0

Greg Stroman

7

12

1.7

6

0

Totals

502

1816

3.6

63

14

Receiving Statistics

NAME

Receptions

Yards

Average

Long

TD

Isaiah Ford

63

937

14.9

61

10

Cam Phillips

46

549

11.9

60

2

Bucky Hodges

36

492

13.7

46

6

Ryan Malleck

20

277

13.9

71

2

Sam Rogers

14

170

12.1

51 (TD)

2

Travon McMillian

12

64

5.3

19

1

Kalvin Cline

3

38

12.7

31

0

Michael Brewer

1

14

14.0

14

0

Brenden Motley

1

13

13.0

13

0

Kevin Asante

1

13

13.0

13

0

J.C. Coleman

1

10

10.0

10

0

Trey Edmunds

1

8

8.0

8

0

Demitri Knowles

1

7

7.0

7

0

Totals

200

2592

13.0

71

23

What is obvious is that Virginia Tech's offense really never developed a consistent season long personality, or character.  It excelled at neither passing nor running the ball over the 12 game season.  The play calling was, as has been mentioned before, completely inscrutable, and it took more than half a season for the offensive line to work together.  What is obvious when you look at the breadth of the Virginia Tech 2015 season is that this team never gave up.  It was always within a few points of victory in losses, and if the two overtime games had fallen in the right direction the Shreveport Boxing Day Special wouldn't have happened because at 8-4 the team would have had a higher tier bowl invitation.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane 2015 Season Wrap:

Passing Statistics

NAME

Complete

Attempt

Yards

Comp%

Yds/A

TD

INT

RAT

Dane Evans

278

441

3958

63.0

8.98

22

8

151.3

Conner Floyd

0

1

0

0.0

0.00

0

0

0.0

Totals

278

448

3958

62.1

8.84

22

8

148.9

Rushing Statistics

NAME

Carries

Yards

Average

Long

TD

D'Angelo Brewer

148

732

4.9

23 (TD)

4

Zack Langer

193

714

3.7

46

17

Ramadi Warren

67

467

7.0

65 (TD)

6

James Flanders

21

87

4.1

13

0

Keevan Lucas

6

46

7.7

12

0

Chad President

17

43

2.5

29

0

Rowdy Simon

7

35

5.0

11

1

Justin Hobbs

3

13

4.3

6

0

Totals

552

2075

3.8

65

29

Receiving Statistics

NAME

Receptions

Yard

Average

Long

TD

Keyarris Garrett

88

1451

16.5

50

7

Joshua Atkinson

65

932

14.3

80 (TD)

4

Justin Hobbs

29

516

17.8

61

2

Conner Floyd

44

438

10.0

36 (TD)

3

Keevan Lucas

26

409

15.7

43 (TD)

5

D'Angelo Brewer

14

103

7.4

27

1

Zack Langer

4

61

15.3

34

0

Mandel Dixon

3

24

8.0

9

0

Chad President

1

8

8.0

8

0

James Flanders

1

5

5.0

5

0

Tavarreon Dickerson

1

5

5.0

5

0

Bishop Louie

1

4

4.0

4

0

Nigel Carter

1

2

2.0

2

0

Totals

278

3958

14.2

80

22

The Golden Hurricanes are virtually unknowns to us ACC fans.  What is pretty obvious; however, from the numbers and the game summaries is that Dane Evans is a solid quarterback, and has a good receiving corps.  They have no dominant running back, but that is of no real issue since they still average around four yards a run, and their top seven receivers are averaging nearly 14 yards a pass.  That's seriously good performance and Coach Foster's squad has its work cut out for it.

The Ups and Downs - IFs and BUTs

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane wins if they can keep up the offensive pressure on the Virginia Tech defense.  Tech has seen few offenses this potent and if Tulsa can make the game a shootout, it has the potential of running away with a win by a nose at the final whistle.  It of course must figure out how to get some stops, or stalls (where we get Field Goals instead of touchdowns), and then turn around and answer a 3 with a 7.  The Evans to Garrett connection is going to be key, whether or not Garrett even gets to touch the ball.  Whether he is a decoy or the main target, he must be accounted for and that is going to put a serious strain on the Hokie secondary.  Evans gets the ball out fast, and the edge rush is unlikely to reach him unless the routes have to be deep and take time to develop.  So, the Tackle and Mike positions are going to be critical for pressure up the A gap.   If Evans can keep his 3 second passing game intact, it could be a long day for the Tech D.

The Virginia Tech Hokies win if they can run the ball on offense (not power runs, but slashing sweeps, slants, and counters where Travon McMillian excels in those one cut and go zone runs.  Tech needs to control the line of scrimmage, the clock, and use Brewer's smarts and short passing ability (short as in +5 yards minimum, none of these -2 to 0 yard throws!) and his much improved ball control to get the ball out to Isaiah Ford or Cam Phillips on out routes and Bucky, Ryan, and Rogers out in the flats and across the middle.  Tech must control the ball and keep the Tulsa offense off of the field.   When the Tulsa Offense is on the field, the coverage cannot be loose.  Tech has to stop the zone splitting 3 second passes by stopping the running game, and pressuring the quarterback up the middle.  Evans needs to be trying to find passing lanes through forests of hands.  There also needs to be better rush lane retention so that he doesn't slip out of the pocket to gash us for yards.

On a note for Tech, three players are listed as not playing on Saturday.  Kevin Asante, Dion Clarke, and Dimitri Knowles will not be on the game roster.  Asante and Clarke have been sent home for violating team rules per the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Knowles didn't make the trip because he failed to show up to several meetings.

This is also a warning as to the potential attitude of some players in the locker room.  Let us hope this malaise is not catching.  Virginia Tech is favored to win by most of the sports world.  As all Hokie fans know, that can be a good thing, and a bad thing.  Let's hope for the former.

This team needs to give Frank Beamer a first rate Boxing Day present.  Win the game and give him a final winning season, and a Bowl trophy that bookends his first from this streak.

GO HOKIES!!!!

Sources:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/259

http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/202

http://www.richmond.com/sports/college/acc/article_2c44d324-84d5-5d92-a0ec-f2f1c98ff6fe.html