ORLANDO – The Virginia Tech football team celebrated through the night at its team hotel, basking in the glow of an ugly 13-10 overtime win against Rutgers in Friday’s Russell Athletic Bowl. The Hokies (7-6) finished the year on a season-long three-game winning streak, ensuring the worst season Coach Frank Beamer has endured in 20 years ended with a winning record.
But even in the immediate aftermath of the program’s first bowl victory in three years, there was no escaping the uncertainty that awaited the Hokies in Blacksburg, Va.
Beamer likely will initiate the sort of wholesale changes to his offensive coaching staff that fans have been clamoring about for nearly a decade. Already, there is a report that wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman is expected to accept a position at Purdue, though Sherman would neither confirm nor deny that was the case Friday night.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, play-caller and quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain and offensive line coach Curt Newsome, all of whom have worked under Beamer for at least seven seasons, could be moving on, as well.
If Beamer wanted any more confirmation that his offense needs an overhaul, Virginia Tech’s final game of the year may have provided it. The Hokies were held to a season-low 196 yards by Rutgers, including just three rushing yards on 32 carries, a microcosm of a season in which Virginia Tech’s power running attack never got going.
“It’s kind of like nothing came easy for us,” Beamer said.
In contrast, coordinator Bud Foster’s defense capped off a year in which it steadily improved after a disappointing start by keeping Rutgers’s offense out of the end zone all game. The Hokies held the Scarlet Knights to just 196 yards as the two teams combined to score the fewest points in the bowl’s history.
That was the only reason Virginia Tech remained close enough to mount a fourth-quarter charge on a night when it punted 11 times, tied for the most ever under Beamer. Still, the players continued to defend their coaches even with rampant rumors that their days are numbered.
“I really don’t put all that pressure on the coaches,” said senior wide receiver Marcus Davis, who fell nine yards shy of tying Virginia Tech’s single-season receiving record. “I think it’s more of the players, it’s more of a want-to. If they want to go out there and be the best offense that the program has ever seen, they have the ability to do it. They just have to go out and do it. The coaches, they’ve done it before. It’s already proven to work, so I feel it’s up to the players, the younger guys, to step up and just go.”
In that regard, perhaps the most intriguing question over the next month is whether Friday will go down as quarterback Logan Thomas’s final game in a Virginia Tech uniform. The redshirt junior was again inconsistent against Rutgers, continuing a season-long trend in his second season as the Hokies’ starting signal-caller.
Nonetheless, he became the first quarterback since Bobby Owens in 1965 to lead Virginia Tech in rushing (524 yards) and broke his own single-season school record for total offense (3,500 yards). Thomas has yet to hear back from the NFL’s draft advisory board and must make a decision to enter the draft by Jan. 15.
So as he jogged off the field Friday night, stopping to pose for pictures with teammates, the Hokies fans who remained in a rainy Florida Citrus Bowl screamed his name and asked futilely whether he would be back next year. Thomas had no answers, his uncertain future mirroring that of the entire program.
“I still have a big decision in front of me,” he said. “Either way it goes, I’m glad to be a Hokie.”