Virginia Tech finds itself in a familiar situation with Duke on the horizon this Saturday, but the Hokies are hoping the result is much different than the last time around.
The No. 23 Hokies are 6-2 and in command of the ACC Coastal Division. Virginia Tech is coming off of a couple of big wins and must travel to play a team that has given them fits in the past. Stop me if you’ve read this before.
“I think we have a pretty good reference point for ourselves earlier in the season. The last time everybody was patting us on the back and telling us how good of a job we’ve been doing, we went up to Syracuse and got smacked around,” said Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente. “I think that’s a pretty clear reference point for our guys, in terms of the preparation and the intensity of which we’ll have to play. The margin for error is very small.”
Isaiah Ford said that the team is hoping to have learned from their past mistakes this season and continue to have good weeks of preparation leading up to games.
“Coach refers us to the little kid touching the stove,” Ford said. “Is he going to go back and touch it again or is he going to learn his lesson the first time? We want to be the ones who learned our lesson the first time.”
Duke hasn’t been an easy out for Virginia Tech in recent seasons. The Hokies have lost two of their last three games vs. the Blue Devils, both of those losses coming at home. Before David Cutcliffe’s arrival at Duke, the Blue Devils were an afterthought in football. Now, Cutcliffe has given the basketball school a viable, competitive football program.
“I think the job that he’s done at Duke is maybe underappreciated at a national level,” Fuente said. “I think he’s one of the fine coaches in our sport. He always has his team ready to play.”
Luckily for Virginia Tech, they have a couple extra days to prepare. After Virginia Tech’s win over Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Hokies had team meetings and lifts on Friday, an off-day Saturday and an extended practice on Sunday.
“That’s supposed to be the reward of playing a Thursday game,” Fuente said. “You kind of have to pack in your preparation, but you get rewarded for it on the back end. Because of us playing two straight Thursday games, we had to wait until this week to get to do that. We’ll give them a little bit of time, hopefully they’ll be fresh and they’ll know what to do by Saturday.”
Virginia Tech impressed with fan presence on the road
Save for the Syracuse loss, Tech fans have traveled well this season. With most of Virginia Tech’s road games within driving distance, the fan presence at road games has been noticeable.
“For me, obviously it’s my first year, to see how well we travel, we’re just getting off the bus and getting on the field to start the game,” Fuente said. “It was kind of odd last week. Usually they’re in one spot, last week they were kind of separated throughout the stadium. I’ve said this before, but it’s very nice to work at a place that really wants to support what your kids are doing on a weekly basis, whether they’ve got to drive a couple hours or not. Our kids certainly notice it, I know that.”
“Every game is a home game when you play for Virginia Tech,” Ford said. “Our fans travel and they travel well.”
Fuente quiet on injuries, Narduzzi’s antics
As is protocol with Virginia Tech, Fuente declined to give much information regarding injuries.
Fuente said on Monday that Jerod Evans, who was spotted wearing a walking boot after the Pittsburgh win, participated fully in Sunday’s practice and looked “good.” Fuente said there are no updates regarding defensive tackle Nigel Williams, who has missed the Hokies’ last two games.
Fuente was asked on Monday about his reaction to Pat Narduzzi’s sideline antics vs. Virginia Tech, but didn’t offer much.
“My boss and I have a clear definition of what we think the Virginia Tech head coach should be like,” Fuente said. “If other people at other places have different definitions, that’s totally up to them. It’s none of my business. I have no issue with any of that, until we discredit the effort that our kids put in. Then there’s some issue to be had with that.”
Narduzzi was pretty animated in his frustration with the officiating of Pittsburgh’s loss to Virginia Tech last Thursday. Narduzzi was critical of the referees following the game and even credited the Hokies’ wide receivers for pushing off of Panther defenders. Narduzzi was fined $5,000 for violations of the ACC Sportsmanship Policy, specifically for his public criticism of referees.