By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Frank Beamer has been Virginia Tech’s head coach since 1987. He has led the Hokies to more than 200 wins and 20 consecutive bowl appearances, seven conference championships and six BCS games, including the national championship game following an undefeated 1999 regular season.
He can be forgiven for one tiny slip.
In talking of Marshall during a Monday morning teleconference, Beamer said the Thundering Herd is among the best in its conference.
“I think them, East Carolina and Central Florida are probably the best three teams in Conference USA,” Beamer said.
Problem is, Central Florida is in its first year in the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East).
As much as the landscape of college football has changed in recent years, that’s an honest mistake. Besides, the point is well taken.
Marshall (2-1), despite its loss at Ohio last Saturday, should present a strong challenge to the Hokies when the teams meet at noon Saturday in Blacksburg, Va. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Beamer isn’t letting the Herd’s 34-31 loss to the Bobcats lull him into a false sense of security. Marshall still ranks among the best offensive teams in the nation.
“Their receivers are quick and fast,” Beamer said. “Defensively, they are much improved. I think this team is really good. They lost to Ohio, but they turned the ball over three or four times early. That will really get you in a jam there.
“Their quarterback (Rakeem Cato) is completing about 64 percent of his passes. I think they are better on the offensive line. They are running the ball more. It’s a more balanced offense.”
Tech (2-1) is coming off a 15-10 win at East Carolina, the team expected to be the road block to Marshall’s chances of winning C-USA’s East Division. The Pirates were held to 53 yards rushing by a Tech defense that ranks second in the nation overall.
The Hokies sacked ECU quarterback Shane Harden seven times, including twice each by senior ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Tech also had 11 tackles for loss and three interceptions.
Beamer credited the pressure on Harden not only to the athleticism, but also the scheme.
“If you can make the quarterback hold on to the ball longer than he wants to, you give yourself a good chance there,” he said.
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Saturday will be Military Appreciation Day at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field. Tech players will wear orange camouflage helmets and white military-themed jerseys to honor the country’s servicemen and servicewomen. The uniforms will be auctioned off later, with all proceeds going to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
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It was announced Monday that Marshall’s game at FIU on Saturday, Nov. 23, will kick off at 6 p.m. and be televised by Fox College Sports Central.
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