BLACKSBURG, Va. - When Frank Beamer was a young boy in Fancy Gap, Va., his mother nursed him back to health after he was badly burned in a fire in the family garage.
The Virginia Tech coach's mother, Herma, died early yesterday in her sleep at age 86. Beamer's Virginia Tech football team provided the healing for the coach last night. Beamer took the field and led the Hokies to a 55-6 victory over Maryland, honoring a request his ailing mother made before Tech's Nov. 6 game at North Carolina.
"Before the UNC game, my mom told my brother and sisters if anything happened to her, she wanted me to go out and coach the team and to win the ballgame," Beamer said. "That kind of tells you about my mom. She wanted me right here, and to make sure we won. She's a tough lady, a good lady."
Tech players were outfitted with stickers on their helmets emblazoned with an "H" to honor the memory of Beamer's mother. Then the Hokies went out and soundly defeated the Terrapins.
Junior tailback Justin Hamilton, whose 5-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter gave Tech a 28-3 lead, said assistant coach Billy Hite told the team at breakfast that Beamer's mother had died.
"It kind of hit hard," Hamilton said. "We knew she had been sick, but we didn't know anything about it. I lost my grandfather when I was 16 so I know everything he's going through.
"That guy, he's with us through thick and thin. It had to be a tough time for him, losing your mother and then coming to coach with hardly any rest. We don't always agree with the punishment, we don't always agree with the way practice goes, we don't always agree with the discipline, but when it comes right down to it, that's somebody that everybody looks up to as a father."
Beamer and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen are close friends and have adjoining summer property on Lake Oconee in Georgia, but this is November, and relations were much chillier.
Friedgen called two timeouts as the Hokies were lining up to kick a field goal that gave them a 41-3 halftime lead. The Maryland coach then uttered a profanity during a halftime interview on ESPN.
"I was really distraught after the first half," Friedgen said. "That's not an excuse. That's not acceptable, and I apologize."
Fireworks exploded all night over Lane Stadium. Beamer, Tech class of 1968, was feeling at home. His mother chose to spend her final days at home rather than in a hospital.
"My mom, she had a heart problem that wasn't going to get better," Beamer said. "So really it's a blessing. She died peacefully."