Virginia Tech Focused on Correcting Practice Habits, Fumbles and Penalties in Preparation for Boston College

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The center-quarterback exchange between Jerod Evans (4) and Kyle Chung (61) was one of the many issues in Virginia Tech’s loss to Tennessee on Saturday night.

At Virginia Tech’s weekly press conference on Monday, Head Coach Justin Fuente said that he noticed that his Hokies didn’t have a great week of practice heading into their primetime matchup against Tennessee last Saturday.

“Yeah, absolutely I noticed it and I pointed it out to them,” Fuente said. “There’s a lot that goes into that and that’s up to us to get fixed. The leadership on the team, the coaching staff, we have to have better preparation. I wasn’t happy with it during the week and I told our kids that.”

Fuente wasn’t the only one to notice that things seemed off at practices and team activities.

“I don’t know exactly what happened for Tennessee,” said Jerod Evans. “We all came out flat. I can’t really put my finger on it, it was just flat. We didn’t have the same urgency that we should have came out with that Tuesday and Wednesday of Tennessee week.”

“I definitely felt that throughout the week. It just felt like practice was dead, like we were all just going through the motions,” said Andrew Motuapuaka. “From the leaders down. We’re trying to do a better job this week of just leading by example.”

After an embarrassing defeat last Saturday, Virginia Tech must now right the ship for their first ACC game of the season vs. Boston College on Saturday. Senior Jonathan McLaughlin said that he and the other leaders on the team must help get guys headed in the right direction.

“At this point, we don’t have a choice,” McLaughlin said. “They need to know that it’s time to go.”

Most certainly, one of the points of emphasis this week will be taking care of the football. Virginia Tech has lost nine fumbles in the first two games of the season, including five vs. Tennessee last Saturday.

“We’re fumbling the ball too much. That’s a fact,” Fuente said. “We must, it’s not an option, get that fixed. That is a result of several things. One, we have to do a better job technically. Looking at the last two games, we talked to the team about it Wednesday, there’s some technical things there we have to get figured out, some emphasis. There’s a little bit of toughness and selflessness that goes into holding onto the football that we haven’t had.”

Evans, who’s been credited with three fumbles this season, said that Fuente and the coaching staff have made it known that ball security needs to be valued above all else on offense.

“You do have, every once in a while, those occasions where you hold onto the ball and no matter what, the defensive player puts his head in the right place and the ball comes out. Then you have those occasions, the ones we’ve been having, that we’re not thinking about it and we’re thinking about making extra effort plays, but we’re not actually thinking about protecting that ball,” Evans said. “We just have to make a conscious effort to protect the ball instead of getting those extra two or three yards, if that’s the case. If that’s not the case, then we want the extra yards, but we got to make a better effort, consciously, to protect the ball.”

Travon McMillian
The Hokies lost five fumbles on Saturday night, including this one by Travon McMillian (34).

Penalties Remain an Issue For Virginia Tech

Fumbles won’t be the only point of emphasis this week. Virginia Tech committed eight penalties for 101 yards, including two unsportsmanlike penalties on Mook Reynolds and Steven Peoples.

“Maybe the most disappointing thing over the last two weeks is our lack of discipline,” Fuente said. “It’s something we pride ourselves on and I’ve always tried to have our teams pride ourselves on. That’s not to say there won’t ever be penalties, but we have been inadequate, to say the least, there.”

“It’s more of an understanding that, that’s not the way we play football,” Evans said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen on the team that gets it and I think that’s going to be easy to fix.”

Fuente also said that guys who played without discipline might not be playing much at all if they can’t change their mindset.

“There’s several ways to address those things. One of those is playing time,” Fuente said. “Ultimately, that’s the biggest card that coaches have. Sometimes, coaches’ hands are a little bit tied with that, in terms of depth chart and that sort of stuff. We continue to teach off of those things and understand why those things happen.”

Hokies Still Looking for Starters on Offensive Line

Virginia Tech has made several personnel changes to the offensive line in the beginning part of the season. Colt Pettit has started at left guard over Wyatt Teller in both games, while Kyle Chung started at center over Eric Gallo vs. Tennessee. Braxton Pfaff has also seen plenty of playing time for Augie Conte at right guard.

Chung seemed to struggle with the center-quarterback exchange on Saturday night with a couple of poor snaps, including one that went over Evans’ head for a turnover.

Despite the switching in and out of guys on the line and at center, Fuente isn’t worried about a lack of chemistry there.

“We have the exact same amount of reps for the ones as the twos, in everything we do,” Fuente said. “As you go through the season, those twos become your ones. It’s just how it goes.”

For Evans, he said that working with both Gallo and Chung in practice has helped him grow more comfortable with both centers.

“It’s kind of difficult, but at the same time, I get a lot of reps with them,” Evans said. “It gets easier once I start getting a feel for both of them, once I get a couple reps with (Kyle) Chung and once I get some reps with Eric (Gallo). I get a feel for both of them and how they snap the ball, under center and in the shotgun.”

News and Notes

  • Virginia Tech announced on Monday that linebacker Trent Young had season-ending knee surgery. Young, a redshirt-sophomore, has yet to play this season. Young appeared in six games in 2015, all on special teams.
  • The ACC announced that Hokies’ game vs. East Carolina is slated for a 12:30 p.m. start. This week’s game vs. Boston College is set for 3:30 p.m.
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13 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Did anyone notice that the hit on Travon was helmet to helmet?!? From what I’ve heard the call can be made on the instant replay. My “sources” have told me that everything went black for Travon for a second and his arms and legs literally gave out before “coming back” at a heightened level and noticing the ball was out.

  2. Why was everyone flat, and why wasn’t it fixed after the first practice?
    What, exactly, is being done to prevent future fumbling besides technique? How about al ball handlers running the gamut with a ball lathered in Crisco?
    Why Chung all of the sudden? He was consistently high on snaps, but remained in the game?
    What was done to the committers of the silly personal fouls? Steps at 6 am?
    This is a “non-article,” i.e., zero substance

  3. Let’s try this again . . . I’m 72 and hope to see 15 more years of Hokie football. And I hope to see the Hokies finally win some big games again.

  4. Is this “can you top this?” week? I’m 87 and I hope to see a few more conference champs. Anyone top that? 🙂

  5. Will this senior class or upperclassmen be the class of underachievers? I mean for McLaughlin and Rogers and others to say they need to help the team prepare better, etc… Haven’t they seen this stuff for 3-4 years and know there is a sense of urgency. Even if upwindofuva is right and there is no a losing culture, these players have been through enough moments to get it. Last year they needed to win to e tend the bowl streak. I know every team may have a bad practice but it would be hold for ford, Rogers, hodges, McLaughlin, conte, Ekanem to accept the idea of going through the motions. They need to stop talking about it and do it. I am not sure Evans is ready to be then if leader. He is talking the talk but it comes across as too much, too quick as is he is trying too hardto be that leader.

    Interesting that motley never got in…

  6. I kind of don’t get it–how does one have a self-described “poor, flat” week of practice leading up to the biggest game of the year?!

    It was only the second week. Fatigue cannot be an excuse. And if you can’t get up for a night game against a ranked SEC opponent at the BMS, I don’t see how you’re going to get up for BC or a bunch of the (likely) nooners against ECU, Duke, Syracuse, etc.

    And it sounds like they knew it at the time. It’s nice to hear the juniors/seniors say that they need to step it up this week and lead the team, but, uh, they kind of should have been doing that last week.

    Sorry-not-sorry for the negativity, but this is the cumulative effect on a fan who has been watching VT lose neutral site game after neutral site game for 12+ years now. And we’ve looked better losing in most of them than we did on Saturday night.

    To be clear, I’ll continue to buy season tickets, show up and yell in Lane, donate to the Hokie Club, etc., etc. But I also think I’ve earned my stripes in terms of being able to voice displeasure when appropriate.

    We’ll see what happens Saturday. If we come out an obviously sharp, laser-focused, hungry team, and win by 20+, some semblance of faith will be restored. I hope the coaches turn up the wick in practice this week, and I hope the guys respond.

  7. While there were five fatally damaging TURNOVERS at Bristol, only two were in the strict sense FUMBLES. The guys will be fine going forward.

    1. Please explain what is meant by “only two fumbles in the strict sense”. By definition we have fumbled 9 times in two games and that is what is recorded. There is no way you can rationalize that fact.

      1. Amen…putting lipstick on that pig doesn’t help win a game!! We can make excuses, or we can find solutions…I prefer solutions (or at MINIMUM, no excuses)!

  8. I’ll turn 69 next month. I hope I live long enough to see a really good OL at VT again. I have to wonder.

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