Va Tech’s Beamer to honor Marshall crash victims
A few hours before kickoff, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer
will take a detour to a cemetery in Huntington, W.Va., where he’ll
pay his respects at a memorial for the 75 Marshall players, coaches
and others killed in a 1970 plane crash, the worst disaster in U.S.
There, he’ll place a stone bearing the same words that appear
above the tunnel leading to Worsham Field at Virginia Tech.
The inscription reads, ”For those who have passed, For those to
come … REACH FOR EXCELLENCE.”
Two of Marshall’s coaches on that plane were former Virginia
Tech players, including one of Beamer’s teammates. Players for
13th-ranked Virginia Tech (3-0) will wear helmet stickers with the
initials of Frank Loria and Rick Tolley and the No. 75 when the
Hokies play at Marshall (1-2) on Saturday.
Tolley, a native of Mullens, W.Va., played at Virginia Tech from
1958-61, becoming Marshall’s coach in 1969. The Thundering Herd
were 3-6 in his second season when they prepared to play East
Carolina in Greenville, N.C.
Thirty-six football players and 39 coaches, administrators,
community leaders, fans and crew never made it home on Nov. 14,
1970. Beamer still has vivid memories of the crash of Marshall’s
chartered jet on a hillside near the Huntington airport in rain and
He recalled sitting in the living room of his girlfriend – and
now wife – Cheryl – in Richmond, Va., when the news flashed across
the television screen.
His thoughts immediately turned to Loria, his teammate on the
1966 Virginia Tech squad when Beamer was a freshman.
”He was a couple of years ahead of me, but he was a guy that
you really looked up to,” Beamer said this week. ”He was a guy
that just had a great way about him. He was smart in his books, but
he was smart on the football field, too. He was a great punt
Loria returned three punts for scores in 1966. A native of
Clarksburg, W.Va., his No. 10 is one of four numbers retired at
Virginia Tech and he was elected to the College Football Hall of
Fame in 1999.
Two years ago, when Marshall played at Virginia Tech, the Hokies
wore the throwback logo of the 1960s to honor Loria.
On Saturday, Frank Loria Jr., born one month after his father’s
death, will handle the coin toss.
The game marks the fourth straight non-marquee opponent for
Virginia Tech, which is looking for its first quality road win of
the season before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play next week
at home against Clemson. The Hokies squeaked past East Carolina
17-10 two weeks ago and faces a Marshall team that wants to show it
can hang with the Hokies.
”East Carolina was definitely a hostile environment,” Beamer
said. ”We all had a few butterflies. We had so many self-inflicted
mistakes that we understand what we’re going to get this week and
we’re going to work on improving and not killing ourselves with
It’s just one of five home games for Marshall this season and
starts a stretch that includes games at Louisville next week and at
Central Florida the week after.
”We do take emphasis with home games,” said Marshall
linebacker George Carpenter. ”We have very few homes games this
year. It is kind of special having Virginia Tech come to our house.
it’s always a big game when we play them.”
Marshall and Virginia Tech have played three times in the past
decade, all in Blacksburg, Va. The Hokies won 52-10 in 2009, 41-14
in 2005 and 47-21 in 2002.
Marshall played strong at West Virginia for one half before
losing in a lightning-shortened season opener, beat Southern Miss
at home, then fell apart at Ohio last week, losing 44-7. Freshman
Rakeem Cato threw four interceptions against Ohio and goes against
a Virginia Tech defense that has intercepted a pass in 10 straight
”There are two things we really pride ourselves in,” said
Marshall coach Doc Holliday. ”Number one is protecting the
football and number two is tackling. We didn’t do either one of
those against Ohio U. We have to do those two things against
Virginia Tech to have a chance.”
Virginia Tech can go 4-0 for the first time since 2006 and has
its own young quarterback in sophomore Logan Thomas, who completed
21 of 33 passes for 292 yards and two scores in a 26-7 win over
Arkansas State last week.
Running back David Wilson is helping Thomas carry the load by
averaging 129 rushing yards per game. He ran for 165 yards against
Marshall two years ago. But the Hokies will be without career
receptions leader Jarrett Boykin with a hamstring injury.