Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer’s first game against Georgia Tech was a loss, a 6-3 defeat in 1990 that kept the Yellow Jackets undefeated and on their way to a share of the national championship.
Since then, he’s done O.K. The Hokies are 8-3 since then, including a 5-2 record since coach Paul Johnson’s hire. He has been a worthy adversary for the Jackets and has earned Johnson’s utmost respect. This week, Johnson called him a fixture in the ACC and said he was sure that Beamer will be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
“I think he’s probably as respected or more respected than anybody in our profession as a head coach, so certainly the game of football is going to miss him,” Johnson said earlier this week.
The two have gotten to know each other through league meetings and golf outings.
“I think he’s just a genuine person,” Johnson said. “What you see is what you get.”
Beamer's umbrella-brandishing wife
I wrote a story for myajc and Wednesday’s paper about Beamer and his close friendship with Bobby Ross, who will be on hand Thursday night for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the 1990 team. Ross, as might be expected, was full of praise for Beamer but also had a kind word for Beamer’s wife Cheryl, which I couldn’t fit into the story.
Ross and Beamer worked together at the Citadel in the mid-to-late 70s – it was Ross’ first time as a head coach and Beamer’s as a full-time assistant – and the team struggled early.
At one game, “there were some people in the stands who were hollering at us, particularly at me,” Ross said. “I recall, according to my wife, Cheryl going after ’em with an umbrella. I was very proud of that. But that was her competitive spirit, too. She had the same kind of spirit that Frank had.”
About the 6-3 win
Ross shared a memory of that win over the Hokies, which came a week after the upset of then-No. 1 Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. Kicker Scott Sisson, who made a 37-yarder in the final seconds to beat the Cavaliers, had a 38-yarder with eight seconds left to beat the Hokies.
“I think the wind stopped,” Ross said. “Otherwise, it might have been a 3-3 tie. The wind stopped just as we went to kick the field goal.”
With Beamer’s retirement, Johnson and Duke coach David Cutcliffe will be the league’s longest-tenured coaches, which strikes me as remarkable given that they were both hired in Dec. 2007. (Johnson has Cutcliffe by a week.) (Also, Clemson's Dabo Swinney became head coach midway through the 2008 season.)
Among the power conferences, Johnson and Cutcliffe have been around the least amount of time as the longest-tenured coaches in their respective league. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, the longest-tenured coaches in the Big 12 and Big 10, respectively, both started in 1999. Georgia’s Mark Richt is the SEC dean, having been hired for the 2001 season. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham began his term in 2005, although the Utes didn’t join the Pac-12 until 2011. (The longest-serving Pac-12 coach who has been in the conference for the entirety of his tenure is Stanford’s David Shaw, who took over for Jim Harbaugh prior to the 2011 season.)
Interestingly, the Jackets have faced Richt, Ferentz and Whittingham.
A-back Broderick Snoddy should get his most playing time since the Duke game, which will be to the Jackets' benefit. Snoddy returned to play in the Virginia game after a four-game absence due to a fractured hand, but was limited to less than five plays. Johnson said it was due to the fact that he only practiced once during that week. Snoddy's speed and playmaking ability have been missed, although A-backs Clinton Lynch and Mikell Lands-Davis are improving.
Johnson also said that freshman A-back TaQuon Marshall, who has not seen the field much in recent weeks, should play more.
Six pack of freshmen
I mentioned this in an article posted earlier this week, but Tech will likely start six freshmen on offense against the Hokies - B-back Marcus Marshall, A-backs Lynch and Lands-Davis, wide receiver Brad Stewart and offensive tackles Will Bryan and Trey Klock. Four of the six - Marshall, Lands-Davis, Stewart and Bryan - are first-year freshmen. It says something about the lack of experience that this team has played with on offense and the potential of the freshman class.
Georgia Tech has already ended its streak of 20 consecutive seasons with a .500 record or better in conference play by taking on its fifth ACC loss. The streak had been the longest active run in FBS. The bowl streak, now at 18 games, is in jeopardy.
Virginia Tech will challenge another Jackets streak, this one not quite as long but noteworthy regardless. Georgia Tech has scored 20 or more points in 19 consecutive conference games. It’s tied with TCU for the second longest active streak among power-conference teams and behind Ohio State (28).
You probably won’t be surprised by the last team to hold Georgia Tech under 20.
Virginia Tech in 2013, a 17-10 win for the Hokies. Coincidentally, it was also on a Thursday night, and Georgia Tech used the occasion to celebrate the anniversary of an iconic element of the football program – Grant Field, which turned 100 that year.
Still No. 1 (in penalties)
Georgia Tech still holds a narrow lead as the least penalized team in the country. The Jackets average 3.56 penalties per game, just ahead of Navy at 3.63. If Tech can maintain that rate, it would be the lowest average going back at least to 1978 (which is when annual records for penalties begins in the media guide). The school record for fewest penalties in a season is 24 by the 1964 team, or 2.4 per game.
Georgia Tech against the pass
This may register as a bit of a surprise, but Tech is one of just 16 teams that hasn’t given up a pass play of 50 yards or longer. The longest pass play given up by the Jackets is 46 yards, the Notre Dame scoring pass from DeShone Kizer to Will Fuller. (A couple weeks ago, Johnson said that the ACC told him that Fuller should have been called for pass interference against Chris Milton, a fact to stack on the pile of hollow victories.)
Further, the Jackets are tied for 22nd with four pass plays of 40 yards or longer. It breaks down a bit from there. Tech is tied for 45th with 11 passes of 30 yards or more, tied for 65th with 28 passes of 20 yards or more but tied for 28th with 64 passes of 28 yards or more.
Perhaps more meaningfully, Tech is 55th in opponent passing efficiency rating at 122.78. For better or worse, if the Jackets finished at that number, it would be Tech’s lowest rating since the 2008 season.
The more damaging element of Tech’s defense has been its play against the run. Tech ranks 100th in opponent yards per carry at 4.83 yards per carry, which is actually an improvement from last year (5.07).
The Jackets aren’t bad at limiting big plays, but are tied for 72nd with 47 run plays of 10 yards or more. However, Tech has just had trouble stopping offenses cold. With 4.4 tackles for loss per game, Tech is 119th in the country.
Bright at night
Since Johnson's hire, Tech has been particularly adept at winning night games at Bobby Dodd. Not counting games against FCS opponents, the Jackets are 7-3 at home in games starting at 6 p.m. or later. Four of the wins were over ranked teams. That said, two of the three losses were to Virginia Tech.