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The Stuff of Legends

By Grant Mitchell | January 13
Frank beamer celebrating
Photo: Virginia Tech Athletics

“Whoomp! (There It Is).” The bagless Vacuum. The Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys.

Bill Clinton’s first year of presidency. Jurassic Park. Plaid and Doc Martens.

John Paxson’s game-winner. Microsoft Office 4.0. The Ford Taurus.

If you asked yourself, “why are we revisiting everything 1993?” then obviously you must not be aware that this was the year that the longest streak of consecutive College Football bowl game appearances began.

The first bowl game ever was the 1902 Rose Bowl, originally referred to as the “Tournament East–West football game,” in which the 10-0 Michigan Wolverines defeated the 3-1-2 Stanford Cardinals (how did they get there), 49-0. Maybe Coach Harbaugh should refocus his recruiting pitches to these glory days if he wants to land a competent quarterback not named Kaepernick.

By 1993, the postseason had expanded to 19 bowl games, allowing 38 eligible teams to leave their mark in the pages of college football history. Amongst these hopeful teams stood one Big East squad in particular: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

The “Hokies”, as they were known, were fresh off of a 2-8-1 football season under a little-known Head Coach named Frank Beamer. Beamer had enjoyed a six-year tenure prior at Murray State, during which he appointed a former defensive back named Bud Foster to help lead his defense. The two were then hired by Virginia Tech in 1986 and 1987 to replace Blacksburg’s winningest coach to date, Bill Dooley, following multiple NCAA recruiting violations.

Old frank beamer
Frank Beamer
Old ud foster
Bud Foster

Fans did not have high expectations for the 1993 season following the massive disappointment that had occurred the year prior: even still, four-star recruits Korey Irby, Bryan Jennings and Cornell Brown offered a glimmer of hope for a brighter future in Blacksburg.

The first game of the '93 season was a momentous defense of Lane Stadium during which 37,737 fans witnessed Virginia Tech strike down Bowling Green 33-16, officially marking the start of a new era.

Junior Quarterback Maurice DeShazo and sophomore Running Back Dwayne Thomas formed a dynamic backfield for the VT squad: both posted career years during the regular season, with DeShazo earning 2,080 passing yards and 25 total touchdowns while Thomas totaled 1,245 yards and 12 touchdowns via rushing and receiving.

Less than three months after their home opener, the Hokies found themselves traveling to Shreveport, Louisiana with an 8-3 record and the #22 national rank to take on the #21 Indiana Hoosiers in the Independence Bowl.

Independencebowl logo
1993 Independence Bowl

After almost thirty minutes of back and forth, hard-nosed football, Tech found themselves with a one-point lead: however, the Hoosiers seemed keen on scoring before the end of the half.

Starting the drive with less than a minute on the clock, IU quarterback John Paci scampered past the VT lineman for a few yards then dropped a dime to his receiver along the left sideline the very next play, advancing the ball to the 50-yard line.

With just 35 seconds left until intermission and the imminent threat of Indiana’s high-powered offense, Hokies George DelRicco and DeWayne Knight etched their name into football lore forever.

The linebacker duo collapsed the pocket and slammed into Paci, causing the ball to squirt loose on the ground: sophomore lineman Lawrence Lewis swiftly scooped the ball up and took it to the house, putting his team up 21-13 with just a matter of seconds left until halftime.

Enter the magic of “Beamer Ball”: after the ensuing kickoff was returned to the 42-yard line and a quick pass play advanced Indiana nine yards, it appeared as if time had run out. However, officials determined that the Hoosiers had taken a timeout with one second remaining, allowing the opportunity for a 51-yard field goal attempt.

With the prospect of his team’s lead being cut to five points, Tech’s Jeff Holland overpowered the Hoosier line and got a hand to the kick attempt enough to slow it down and knock it off course. Fellow Hokie Antonio Banks managed to secure the ball at the 20-yard line, reversed field and broke 80 yards untouched to the end zone, doubling up on his team's final-minute scoring.

What had just been a 14-13 ballgame had exploded to a 28-13 advantage en route to a 45-20 rout.

Beamer left his 24-40 start at Virginia Tech behind him following this victory, embarking upon a legendary 214-81 journey that was highlighted by 11 bowl victories, 13 years of being ranked in the top 10 and products such as Michael Vick, DeAngelo Hall and Kam Chancellor.

Beamer’s final game on the sidelines fell on December 26th, 2015 in Shreveport, Louisiana… at the Independence Bowl. Back where it all started, Beamer’s Hokies defeated the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 55-52 in one of the most exciting postseason matches ever.

2015 independencebowlentrance
2015 Independence Bowl

Michael Brewer threw for 344 yards that day, 227 of which went to receiver Isaiah Ford (now of the Miami Dolphins), a touchdown (also to Ford) and an interception.

Travon McMillan and J.C. Coleman combined for 160 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while Greg Stroman (now of the Washington Football Team) accrued 132 yards on four punt returns, including a 67-yard touchdown.

Frank Beamer touched the lives of hundreds of thousands, even millions of Hokies and Hokie fans nationwide. The AP Coach of the year, two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year and three-time Big East Coach of the year was rewarded after stepping down in 2015 with a retired jersey (#25, the number he wore when he played), a statue outside of the field and commemorative renaming of the road adjacent to Lane stadium, now affectionately known as Beamer Way.

Beamer's successor in Justin Fuente led the Hokies to postseason appearances his first four seasons at the helm, finishing
1-3. The former Memphis Head Coach was unable to elevate his team last season, finishing with the program's first losing record since 1992.

2020 took many normalities away from the world and among them, Virginia Tech’s unparalleled streak of bowl game appearances: although, they still beat UVA.

Commonwealth cup win
Photo: Matt Gentry

The 27-year run through college football dominance currently puts the Hokies atop the list of the greatest dynasties that the sport has seen and will remain intact for at least another four years, pending the future success of the Georgia Bulldogs and their 24-year bowl game stretch.

With the end of the beloved streak comes a new opportunity to build something special in Blacksburg. Tre Turner and James Mitchell offer dynamic receiving threats that NFL teams could use on their roster right now, commits Jack Hollifield and Jalen Stroman offer promise as the next generation of impact players while newly announced transfer Jordan Williams will add to a group of hungry defensive lineman that are sure to rattle opposing quarterbacks next season.

James mitchell
Photo: College Football News

With a little bit of luck, this fall will mark the start of another chapter in the legendary history of the program.