Virginia Tech isn’t panicking, nor should they.
The Hokies lost to No. 2 Clemson on Saturday night, picking up their first loss of the season. But they aren’t pushing the panic button.
“It certainly wasn’t time for a players’ only meeting, or a circling of the wagons,” said head coach Justin Fuente. “It’s early in the year and I think our guys are excited about the challenge in front of us.”
Instead, Virginia Tech is presenting themselves with a simple question — react or respond?
“When you’re faced with adversity, or outcomes that you don’t particularly want or didn’t aspire to, you have two options,” Fuente said. “You can react and go the wrong way, or you can respond to the situation. Hopefully we’ll have a great week of prep and do a great job of responding.”
So far, Fuente seems pleased with how his team is handling the loss. Saturday’s loss to the Tigers was Virginia Tech’s first loss since the Hokies lost to Clemson in last year’s ACC Championship Game.
“Yeah, I thought it was good,” Fuente said. “We had a good workout on Sunday. I think our kids understand the challenge that’s in front of them. None of them are happy about what happened. It certainly wasn’t a group that — my message was, ‘Don’t even walk in here and feel sorry for yourself. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. It’s up to us to change the situation we’re in.’ I think they heard that, and I look forward to seeing them the rest of the week.”
Part of fixing a problem is admitting there is one, and the Hokies aren’t hiding behind any excuses. Justin Fuente knows that if Virginia Tech is going to get where they want to this season, everyone needs to improve.
“I would say that we should have played better at every single position,” Fuente said of his team’s play vs. Clemson. “At quarterback, at offensive line, at defensive line, at linebacker, at defensive back, at punter — Greg Stroman at punt returner was as probably as good as you could get. Other than that, I would give our whole team a very average grade.”
Average isn’t going to cut it in the ACC. Virginia Tech’s quest to repeat as Coastal Division champs continues next weekend at Boston College, the Hokies’ Atlantic Division crossover rival. The Eagles are 2-3 this season, including an 0-2 record in the ACC. Boston College lost in week two to Wake Forest and in week four to Clemson, losing to the Tigers by a score of 34-7. However, the Eagles were tied with Clemson until the fourth quarter, where they were outscored 27-0.
Despite Boston College’s record, Virginia Tech is by no means overlooking the Eagles before Tech’s bye week.
“They’re a big, strong, physical football team. They get in many more big personnel groups, multiple tight ends, under the center, try to run the ball at you, play action over the top. They do a good job with their naked and boots. Very sound on special teams. Their punt returner has been fantastic. Statistically, I don’t know where he’s at, but he really had a good game vs. Clemson and had a good game last week. Defensively, it’s a lot of man coverage. They don’t back up very much. They get down there, in your face, and play press man and mix a little bit of zone in.”
Hokies concerned about Slye, Fox impressing in limited role
One of the biggest concerns facing Virginia Tech right now is the kicking game, specifically senior kicker Joey Slye. After being incredibly reliable from inside 40 yards throughout his career, Slye has missed three such field goals already this season. Overall, Slye is 8-14 on field goal attempts this season.
Fuente was short in addressing Slye’s play.
“Sure,” Fuente said. “I mean, absolutely concerned about it.”
Another concern is running back play. Steven Peoples missed the Hokies’ game vs. Clemson, and Tech’s running backs didn’t impress the coaching staff on Saturday. Tech’s uneven play at running back has some wondering if Coleman Fox should get more of a look. In limited work in Virginia Tech’s last three games, Fox, a redshirt-sophomore, has run for 139 yards on 24 carries, scoring one touchdown. Fox also has four receptions for 13 yards.
As of now, Fuente isn’t sure if Fox’s role will increase earlier in the game, before the outcome of the game has been decided.
“Two weeks ago, excluding the Clemson game, the games were out of hand and we wanted to get him in there,” Fuente said. “Jalen had been sick, and this past week we had a fumble, we had a missed block on the perimeter and Coleman had practiced well, so we felt like putting him in there. So I don’t know, we’ll see. He’s done a good job when he’s been in there and he continues to work hard.”