They got another chance a few series later, only to see Journell's 51-yard field goal come up short with 2:20 showing on the clock.
Rutgers punted, but got it back just a play later when Thomas' pass was intercepted by Brandon Jones.
"Two tremendous defensive performances, and one of the better defensive performances I've seen from Rutgers players this season," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "It's unfortunate that we came out on the wrong side of the game, and squander that kind of performance as a result."
It was defense on both sides that controlled the action in the first half as Rutgers took a 10-0 halftime lead.
The Scarlet Knights were the most effective offensively, managing a modest seven first downs and a field goal. But the Scarlet Knights came up empty on their best drive of the half, failing to convert on a fourth-down pass play inside the Hokies 35.
Virginia Tech struggled throughout, though, tallying only 73 yards total in the first two quarters. Thomas was also sacked twice and intercepted late in the half, which severely hampered an offense that never made it into Rutgers' territory.
Penalties also bent in Rutgers' favor. Virginia Tech was penalized eight times for 60 yards. The Scarlet Knights weren't whistled for any penalties in the half.
A miscue by Virginia Tech on the opening drive of the game produced the game's first score.
Hokies center Caleb Farris sent his second snap of the night sailing past Thomas and into the end zone.
Thomas scrambled back to pick it up, and tried to run it out, but he was instantly swarmed and lost the ball as he was tackled. It was eventually recovered by Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene for the touchdown.
Beamer said the challenge now is to not let any shortcomings from this season cloud the offseason.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team," he said. "We've won some more games in other years, but I think this group is special.
He said he won't have any negative feelings when he looks back on this season.
"Not everything in life is real smooth," Beamer said. "These players worked hard and how they reacted to adversity and to disappointment and when all of them wanted to do better — they kept together."
NOTES: The game was the lowest scoring the bowl's history. It surpassed Stanford's 24-3 win over Penn State in 1993. ...The game also set a bowl record with 20 punts, passing the previous record of 19 in the 1991 matchup between Alabama and Colorado.
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower
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