Virginia Tech might’ve cracked the top 25 for the first time since 2014, but Augie Conte thinks North Carolina might be sleeping on the Hokies.
“I’m glad they won. I want them going in there confident. I don’t think they have a whole lot of respect for us,” Conte said. “I feel like the more confident they’re feeling, the better chance we have [of] posting an upset.”
“They beat Pittsburgh, who’s got a really good team this year, they beat Florida State who was ranked No. 12 or something like that. We were unranked this past week, just barely snuck into the rankings this week. They’re ranked pretty high now. Also, they went to the ACC Championship last year, almost beat, probably should’ve beat somebody who played for a national championship, so they probably have a lot of confidence right now, they probably haven’t thought about us a lot,” Conte said.
If North Carolina, or anyone else for that matter, doesn’t respect Virginia Tech now, the Hokies have a chance to change that this coming Saturday, as Tech takes on No. 17 North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
At his weekly press conference on Monday, Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente praised North Carolina for their upset win over Florida State.
“We’ve got a tremendous challenge in front of us,” Fuente said. “North Carolina is coming off of two huge victories. They’re all big, but two close games, two hard fought victories. Not a lot of people have gone down to Tallahassee and come away with a win.”
Virginia Tech comes in off their bye week, but Fuente isn’t sure that having extra time to prepare and rest actually provides an advantage.
“I just don’t know how big of a factor it is,” Fuente said. “Nobody really likes playing a team… I know when I get the calendar or the schedule, I look and see who’s got two weeks before they play us. It always raises my, kind of, antennas.”
“We’re pretty rested by gameday anyway in a normal week,” Fuente said.
In the bye week, Tech focused on getting guys healthy, as well as getting younger players extra reps in practice.
“We had a good week of work last week,” Fuente said. “Our Tuesday and Wednesday practices were good work for some of our young guys, while still keeping older guys on point, still getting some work and things like that. Thursday, we had a little more gameplan-oriented practice.”
Even though the Hokies didn’t play last week, they did slide into the AP Top 25 thanks to some losses by ranked teams. In true Fuente fashion, the ranking really isn’t a big deal to him or his players.
“I always look at it like this — can anybody tell me in week five of last year who was ranked and who wasn’t ranked? It’s great for our fans to take pride in and get excited about,” Fuente said. “It may add to the fanfare on the outside about the upcoming game, but it’s not something we draw a lot of focus on.”
“It’s cool getting recognized and all that, but our goal at the beginning of the year wasn’t to be ranked, it was to win the ACC Championship and get some rings,” said Ken Ekanem.
Conte says that in order for Virginia Tech to be able to call themselves a ranked team, they need to win this weekend.
“My opinion on being ranked is, I feel like the rankings come out, but you’re not truly ranked until you defend your rank,” Conte said. “I’ve never been a part of a ranked team here at Virginia Tech where we’ve actually been ranked and gone out and defended it the next week, which is something I’m not necessarily happy about. You’re not ranked until you can go out and defend it and prove that you’re in a spot where you should be.”
Offensive line finding a rhythm
After a tumultuous start to the season, it seems like the Virginia Tech offensive line has settled into things a bit. Eric Gallo seems to have reclaimed his starting position at center, while Wyatt Teller seems to have taken back his starting job at left guard over Colt Pettit.
Conte said the offensive line really came together in their last game vs. East Carolina.
“I think we’re starting to gel a little bit more,” Conte said. “In particular, in our pass game. When we played ECU, we started to play more as a unit, just with everybody’s technique and the way we were playing, it was really obvious we were starting to gel as more of a unit.”
Despite that, the offensive line is still hoping to improve. Virginia Tech ranks 49th in rushing, averaging 195.5 yards per game, but the Hokies are only averaging 4.16 yards per carry, which is slightly below average nationally.
“Obviously, we have a little bit of work to do in our zone blocking schemes, but we worked on that a lot during the bye week,” Conte said.