Virginia Tech Special Teams: Are They Truly Special?

You can’t watch a Virginia Tech football game on television without hearing the announcers mention Frank Beamer and
his special teams. The Hokies have blocked a lot of kicks over the years, and with the exposure they get from ESPN, many
have come on national television. One day we’ll all look back on Beamer and say that when it came to blocking kicks,
he was ahead of the curve. But the special teams game is more than how many kicks you block. They can turn the tide of
the game and mean the difference between victory and defeat. With that in mind, are Beamer’s special teams truly
special?

It seems like longer than three weeks ago that I was sitting in ALLTEL Stadium, watching Virginia Tech get dismantled
by Florida State on special teams…again. It was depressing and embarrassing when you consider the amount of publicity
the Hokies’ special teams get. And that got me thinking…exactly how many of Frank Beamer’s wins and losses can be
directly attributed to special teams?

That’s a tough question. Using past media guides as my reference, I looked at the game recaps and box scores for
every game since Frank Beamer has been at Virginia Tech. It’s easy to find blocked kicks and kick returns, but things
like a shanked punt, fumbles on kickoff return and missed field goals are usually not included. So for some games, I’ve
had to go on memory.

There is also the difficulty of deciding whether or not special teams actually won or lost the game. There are some
who will say that special teams didn’t cost Virginia Tech the national championship in 1999 (when FSU blocked a punt
for a TD and returned another for a TD in a 46-29 win), and there are others who say that they did. Also, a big play in
special teams changes a lot during the game. If a team gets behind, they’ll throw the ball more. If they get up, they’ll
run out the clock by running the football. Stats and play calling are directly impacted by special teams scores, so
deciding which games are won and lost solely because of special teams is an inexact science.

But I’ll give it a shot. Let’s take a look at the games that I found, either by research or by memory, that may
have been decided by special teams. First, the games I think the Hokies won by playing Beamer Ball.

Virginia Tech 24, East Carolina 23—1990

With 5:07 remaining in the game, the Pirates scored what appeared to be the game tying touchdown. However the Hokies
blocked the extra point and the score remained 24-23. We can’t say that ECU would have won the game with the extra
point, because overtime didn’t exist back then, and Tech received the ensuing kickoff. But when the Hokies win by one,
and they block an extra point, this one has to count. Beamer Ball got the Pirates that day.

Virginia Tech 49, Rutgers 42—1993

Virginia Tech led 35-7 at halftime and managed to hang on to the victory despite a furious Rutgers rally in the
second half. William Ferrell returned a blocked punt seven yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to help Tech jump
out to that big lead. Rutgers scored their last touchdown with 57 seconds remaining. Had it not been for Ferrell’s
touchdown, the game would have been tied.

11 of the 12 touchdown drives of the game lasted less than three minutes, so the Hokies certainly would have had a
chance to score. But Rutgers had the momentum, and it would have been tough. There’s a good chance special teams
pulled this game out for Tech, who later went to the Independence Bowl.

Virginia Tech 20, Virginia 17—1993

The season finale of the first year of the Beamer Bowl Era, the Hokies returned a fumble for a touchdown and blocked
a punt that set up a field goal. The fumble return doesn’t count, but the blocked punt by Brandon Semones certainly
does. Tech got a field goal out of it, and they eventually went on to win the game by three.

Virginia Tech 13, Miami 7—1995

Virginia Tech freshman wide receiver Angelo Harrison blocked a punt that led to a Virginia Tech field goal against
Miami in 1995. True, the Hokies won by six points, and a Miami field goal would have made the score just 13-10. But that
extra field goal could have dramatically changed playcalling. With an extra three points, the Hurricanes could have gone
for the tie against Tech at the end. That could have drastically changed the 1995 season, and possibly Virginia Tech
football as we know

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