Nobody expected Virginia Tech to lose on Saturday vs. Syracuse, but that’s exactly what happened.
“The kids played hard,” said Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster. “We gave a couple big plays away and after that, you take three plays out of the game — the first touchdown pass, the halfback pass which was the double pass and the play off the penalty they threw to the tight end down the middle of the field — I think that was 178 yards in three plays. They had 300 and I forget what it was. In the other 97 (plays), they had 338 yards. So it came out to 4 yards a play, which against that kind of offense, you’re going to get that. We can’t have the big plays.”
The Hokies were blitzed from the start and never really found traction on either side of the ball. The Syracuse offense moved at an incredible tempo, running exactly 100 plays on offense. Jerod Evans said that the team just didn’t get up for the game.
“We have to bring our own energy, our own emotion and this is a very team-oriented sport,” Evans said. “We have most guys bringing it and some guys not and that can lead to certain things. As far as bringing our own stuff, we as a unit didn’t bring it all the way. That was kind of the case for Syracuse.”
“I’ll take that as my fault, because as a leader I don’t really speak up as much, but I like to show my actions,” said Isaiah Ford. “I guess that’s just me not making enough plays. And that’s something that I’ll just take on my shoulders and try to make sure we don’t have that excuse this Thursday, and I’ll try to make as many plays as I can and just try to rally my team and try to give us a momentum shift.
Head Coach Justin Fuente didn’t see an effort problem, but instead said that the Orange just executed better.
“Oh, I would think I would take everything our guys say in terms of evaluating our team with a grain of salt, first and foremost,” Fuente said. “Whether it’s an X’s and O’s evaluation of the other team, or an assessment of our mental state. We had good energy on the field. Our guys played hard. When we watched the film, they played with good toughness and great effort. I would say as a whole, and that would be offensively, defensively, special teams-wise, coaches, players, everyone, we didn’t execute at a level high enough to win the game. That’s obvious, but I don’t think there’s some deep, deep — I like our guys. You know, our guys were there for one reason — to take care of business. We didn’t get it done, but we had emotion and we played hard.”
After the game, the mood surrounding the team was justifiably despondent.
“Immediately after the game, it was definitely a sour feeling,” said Woody Baron. “We lost, it was an ugly loss, but we knew that Miami was coming to town and they’re not going to feel bad for us, so we’ve got to turn the page.”
“We were very disappointed, which is what you want it to be,” Foster said. “Very disappointed. That probably says it all.”
Fuente experienced with Thursday night games
The Hokies, now 4-2 and no longer ranked, must refocus themselves to play another talented, yet struggling, team in Miami on Thursday night. Fuente, who was 3-0 when coaching on short weeks at Memphis, didn’t go into detail about the changes to the preparation for the short week, but said that his time at TCU and Memphis has helped him hone his routine.
“If there’s anything to it, it’s been – at TCU as an assistant, we played in, I don’t know how many, but a bunch of Thursday nights, and I paid close attention to how we went about things there,” Fuente said. “So, at least I had formulated an opinion about how I wanted to do it when I got to Memphis.”
The short turnaround time can not only affect a player physically, but also mentally.
“We try to fit everything that we usually do in a game week,” Ford said. “We kind of like really just focus on the little things. We try to smush it all down into doing … maybe some things that we do Tuesday and Wednesday we only do on Tuesday. And try to shorten it down like that. Get our legs fresh.”
“There are a couple things that are condensed, as far as the team preparation, practice of course,” Baron said. “You’re only getting three-fourths of a normal practice. As far as therapy and my individual preparation, it’s not so much condensed. You’re just trying to get in what you need to.”
‘We definitely owe these guys’
The older players on the team haven’t forgotten the last time Miami visited Blacksburg on a Thursday night. In 2014, Miami entered Lane Stadium and trounced Virginia Tech 30-6, rushing for 364 yards.
“I think we definitely do owe these guys, so, I mean, we’ve got to bring it coming this Thursday,” said Ken Ekanem. “You can’t make it bigger than it actually is. You’ve got to keep everybody’s head really level, so I think we definitely owe them and we’ve got to be able to bring it on Thursday.”
Miami and Virginia Tech find themselves in similar situations. The Canes are coming off back to back losses and need to run the table to have a chance at the Coastal crown. The Hokies surrendered just about their entire cushion as the Coastal leaders and a loss to Miami would put them in rough shape moving forward.
“You’ve got a team that’s coming in here wounded from two losses back-to-back that for in order for them to get back in the mix … it’s kind of like a wounded animal a little bit backed up into a corner,” Foster said. “They’re going to play their best football.”