Cincinnati-Virginia Tech Preview
It's hard to imagine bowl season without Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who's looking to close an up-and-down campaign on the right foot.
Doing so won't be easy against a Cincinnati team riding its longest winning streak in five seasons.
The Hokies try to cool off the Bearcats as they make their 22nd straight postseason appearance Saturday in the Military Bowl at Annapolis, Maryland.
Virginia Tech (6-6) has become a fixture during bowl season under Beamer, riding the nation's second-longest active streak behind Florida State's 33 consecutive appearances. The 68-year-old coach will work the game upstairs in the coaching box after undergoing throat surgery earlier this month.
The Hokies didn't become bowl eligible until beating Virginia 24-20 in their final game Nov. 28. Michael Brewer threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns, including a go-ahead nine-yard strike to Bucky Hodges with 1:48 to go.
Virginia Tech's resume also includes a pair of impressive road wins, 35-21 over then-No. 8 Ohio State on Sept. 6 and 17-16 over then-No. 19 Duke on Nov. 15.
The Hokies, however, went 3-4 in Blacksburg for their most home losses since 1992.
"I know the record hasn't been as good as some of them, but the quality of kids, the determination and the hard play ... this team deserves a bowl," Beamer told the school's official website. "We've been to a bunch of them in a row. I don't know that I've ever had a team that deserved to go to a bowl more than this one. They've fought through some things."
The Hokies allowed an average of 20.4 points to rank 17th in the FBS. They were especially stringy against the pass, surrendering 186.8 yards per game (14th in the country) and 11 touchdowns (tied for seventh). Virginia Tech held quarterbacks to a 47.6 completion percentage, the nation's third-best mark.
The Hokies are 5-5 all-time against the Bearcats after falling 27-24 on Sept. 29, 2012, in Landover, Maryland. Cincinnati's Munchie Legaux threw for a career-high 376 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning 39-yard score with 13 seconds left.
"Remember it well. Obviously it's kind of ironic that the last time we played Cincinnati was at FedEx Field two years ago. Tough loss for us. ... I can still see it like it was yesterday," Hokies associate head coach Shane Beamer said.
"Obviously coach (Tommy) Tuberville wasn't there at the time but they had our respect then. A good football team. I've had a chance to watch them play two or three times this year on TV, and certainly they're a talented team and will be a big challenge for us."
These teams also met in the Orange Bowl after the 2008 season, with Virginia Tech winning 20-7.
The Bearcats (9-3) were a force down the stretch in Tuberville's second season. Cincinnati has outscored opponents by an average of 20.4 points during a seven-game winning streak for its longest single-season run since opening 12-0 in 2009.
The Bearcats beat Houston 38-31 on Dec. 6 to earn a three-way share of the American Athletic Conference championship.
"Seven straight weeks to win a conference, and knowing we had to win them all," Tuberville said. "We do have a football team in this town, I'm proud of it and we're going to get better and better."
Mike Boone ran for 85 yards and three touchdowns, while Gunner Kiel threw for 190 yards and two scores before exiting with leg cramps. Legaux replaced him and went 10 of 14 for 158 yards in his final home game.
Kiel passed for 3,010 yards and a conference-best 30 touchdowns, one shy of the school record. He'll need to be wary of Hokies cornerback Kendall Fuller, who earned first-team all-ACC honors from the media and coaches after recording 50 tackles and a conference-leading 14 pass breakups.
Tuberville will see a familiar face across the way in Brewer, whom he recruited to come to Texas Tech in 2012. Brewer was limited by a back injury in 2013 before transferring to Virginia Tech this year.
"He was a huge reason why I ended up at Texas Tech. I think he's a great coach and have a tremendous amount of respect for him," Brewer said. "They call him a riverboat gambler for a reason. Don't be surprised if he comes out with an onside kick or a fake punt or something."
Virginia Tech is 9-12 in bowl games under Beamer, losing three of the last four, and has gone 10-17 overall. Cincinnati is 7-7 after losing 39-17 to North Carolina in the Belk Bowl last season.