“Beamer Ball” may be dead, but at least the Virginia Tech football team did an admirable job of honoring its memory against Marshall.
It’s a common refrain among Hokie fans to proclaim that Frank Beamer’s signature style of special teams excellence has returned any time Tech blocks a punt.
These proclamations may be premature, but the unit still stepped up in a big way against the Thundering Herd.
Between Kyle Fuller’s blocked punt that led to a Derek DiNardo touchdown in the first quarter and Derrick Hopkins’ blocked field goal in the first overtime, the special teams played a huge role in the tight 29-21 win.
“To win games at this level you need great special teams play,” said linebacker Jack Tyler. “Special teams is the reason we won today’s game.”
Fuller’s block was an especially big moment for the team.
Not only was it Tech’s first blocked punt against an FBS opponent since the Boise State game in 2010, but it also helped the team jump out to an early lead, relieving some of the pressure on the offense.
“We came in wanting to change the game and I feel like we did that,” Fuller said. “There were some at ECU that I was close (to blocking), they just gave me a short edge and I really focused this week on blocking a punt since it’s not as easy as it looks.”
DiNardo’s touchdown return was significant for both the team and the outside linebacker himself, who hadn’t seen the end zone since his days as a quarterback in high school.
“Senior year of high school. That was probably the last time I touched the ball,” DiNardo said.
Hopkins’ block was equally meaningful. The defensive tackle tipped a Marshall field goal attempt that could’ve ended the game in the first overtime.
“The whole game we faced three field goals and each time we got pressure up the middle,” Hopkins said. “This time we were fortunate enough to actually get the block, so we just got pressure and we jumped and I tipped it.”
The return game couldn’t notch a score, but Kyshoen Jarrett still showed some promising flashes.
Jarrett broke off a long punt return early in the third quarter, but a surprising blocking in the back penalty ultimately negated the runback.
“If that punt return had stood, we’d have (had) great field position,” said head coach Frank Beamer. “They said it was (number) 22, and we didn’t have a 22 in the ball game, so I couldn’t figure it out.”
Safety T.J. Shaw actually wears the number, and considering he’s been relegated to the scout team for the majority of his Tech career, there was some understandable confusion on the sidelines about why the play didn’t stand.
“It was kind of whack, but it’s all right,” Jarrett said about the call. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way, but if I’ve got the ability to make a play, special teams wise, it’s cool and we’ve got players like Kyle and a bunch of guys who can block some punts.”
Even punter A.J. Hughes got in on the action. Early in the second quarter, Hughes bobbled a snap, and could’ve just settled for a rushed punt in the face of heavy pressure.
Instead, he tucked the ball and ran 12 yards for a first down, tallying Tech’s third longest rush of the day in the process.
That sequence left no doubt that for all the unit’s talent, the team still got plenty lucky on some plays.
“I feel like my entire time here those breaks have gone every other team’s way,” Tyler said. “It just felt like today they were finally coming our way.”