Beating a legendary coach in his last game would have been icing on the cake for Coach Philip Montgomery in his first year at Tulsa.
It was arguably the most entertaining bowl game this season.
The Golden Hurricane staged a furious comeback but lost to Virginia Tech and legendary coach Frank Beamer 55-52 in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.
“He’s a hall of fame head coach,” Montgomery said. “He’s done a great job there and built something. I don’t know all the history of Virginia Tech, but I don’t know how good it was when he got there. I just told him that his kids played an outstanding game and it was an outstanding game overall. I was proud to be on the opposite sideline in this one. “
Beamer, who is retiring after 29 years at Tech, won his 280th game.
“I’ve said all along, I’m a fortunate guy,” Beamer said. “To have hung around at one school and had the people around me, the administration, to be able to stay at one place in this business for 29 years, I’m amazed myself. I would have kicked myself out a long time ago.”
At one point, Tulsa trailed by 24 points but battled back.
“We finally got a little bit of momentum,” Montgomery said. ”Down 24 for our guys, we’re not paying that much attention to the scoreboard. We’re going to go out there, play the way we play. We’re going to keep pushing the ball, and it doesn’t matter what the score is or how much time is left. We’re going to play the same way from start to finish. We’ve been in games like this, down 24 and come back and won. We’ve been down 10 points with seven minutes left and come back and won. Our guys have a firm belief in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We know that no matter what the score is, we can come back.”
TU quarterback Dane Evans threw for over 300 yards for the ninth time this season.
“The only thing I said on the sideline was to play one at a time. It doesn’t matter how we do it – running or throwing – we just had to keep chipping away. We found ourselves in position to win a game, but we didn’t finish it,” Evans said. Receiver Keyarris Garrett now sits atop the NCAA this year for receiving yards with 1,588 yards, surpassing Bowling Green’s Roger Lewis’ total of 1,544 after 14 games. Garrett completed his career with 3,209 career receiving yards.
“Proud of our seniors,” Montgomery said. “They set the standard here and built the foundation for what we’re trying to do. We hate to send them out that way, but they battled just like we have all year long. I’m extremely proud to be their coach and extremely proud of them. We just ran out of time. If we had a few more ticks on the clock, maybe it changes a little bit. Proud to be the coach of this football team and at this university. Proud of our seniors and what we were able to accomplish.”