Before we dive into today’s notebook, be sure to read the game recap from Saturday night’s loss to Miami, as well as my game notes from Sunday morning. Also, Chris Coleman’s Sunday column is a must-read for TSL Pass Subscribers.
Also, the next two game times for Virginia Tech have been announced. The Hokies’ game at Georgia Tech will kick off at 12:20 p.m., as will the Hokies’ Senior Day vs. Pittsburgh on Nov. 18. Both games will be televised on the ACC Network.
Finally, Virginia Tech took a hit in the AP Top 25 and in the Coaches’ Poll. The Hokies fell to 17th in both polls, after sitting at 13th-place the week before. Tech was one of the biggest droppers in both polls, along with Penn State, Iowa State and Ohio State.
Now, let’s get to the notebook.
Tech’s Sunday travel issues, and getting the team’s mindset right
As if Virginia Tech’s loss to Miami wasn’t debilitating enough, the Hokies’ trip back to Blacksburg might have been more excruciating.
Tech normally heads back to Blacksburg immediately after each road game, and attempted to do so again early Sunday morning. The Hokies’ flight from Miami took off and headed to Roanoke, but could not land due to fog. The Hokies then flew to Raleigh to refuel, and attempted once again to land in Roanoke. The fog persisted, and the Hokies were then forced to land at Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, Tenn., which is close to Bristol.
Tech then had to wait at the airport for their buses to make the trip from Roanoke to pick them up. The team then rode the buses back to Blacksburg, and arrived at the team facility around 3 p.m. on Sunday.
As much of an inconvenience as the travel issues were at the time, they affected Virginia Tech’s preparation for Georgia Tech, a team than can be difficult to prepare for.
“Usually on our Sunday practice, we hit on a lot of fundamentals, in terms of special teams drill work,” said head coach Justin Fuente. “We hit some 7-on-7, some good vs. good with a focus on like two-minute drill and that sort of stuff. Then we usually do a little bit of prep for the upcoming week.”
Instead of the Hokies’ normal Sunday practice, the players got in a quick lift and then received treatment before heading home. The team will be off on Monday, and will return to practice on Tuesday as they normally do.
“I talked to the coordinators about it, when we were sitting — wherever we were, waiting — there’s a small element of stuff we didn’t hit, that we would have usually hit on a normal Sunday,” Fuente said. “But hopefully, this time in the season, this late in the season, with some of our veteran guys, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, hopefully we can kind of overcome that. I certainly will not use that as an issue or an excuse moving forward.”
With Saturday’s disappointing loss on the big stage removing Virginia Tech from Coastal Division contention, plus the travel issues afterwards, it’s understandable that the team needs a bit of a reboot mentally. Fuente reiterated his postgame comments on Monday, saying that the Hokies have plenty left to accomplish this season.
“I think, just in general terms, there’s a lot for us to play for. I mean, we have a chance to be, when you look at numbers and all that sort of stuff, but not even focusing on numbers. I mean, we play football at Virginia Tech, a school that loves and supports its football program, and have an opportunity to have a very accomplished season, to play in a better bowl game, send our seniors out the right way. We have a rivalry game several weeks from now. There’s a lot that goes into it.
“We’re going to play a team that kicked our butt last year in our own stadium on Saturday. I know it’s disappointing when you want to achieve something and you come up short, but the mark of anyone, of a true competitor, is how you handle adversity and how you respond to those things, how your leadership responds to those obstacles, and the only way to get feeling better is to go play better.”
Carroll still injured, DeIuliis could receive medical redshirt
While Virginia Tech works around an abbreviated week of practice, the Hokies are dealing with a few injuries at wide receiver. Fuente was relatively open with injury questions at Monday’s press conference, giving a bit of insight into what players are dealing with.
Wide receiver CJ Carroll hasn’t played since Virginia Tech’s loss to Clemson on Sept. 30. The redshirt-junior has been dealing with a foot injury that has plagued him for over a year now. Carroll had offseason surgery on his foot/ankle and missed all of spring practice, and is now dealing with a problem related to the original injury.
“It has been fixed once,” Fuente said. “It’s just something he’s continuing to deal with. He’ll come out and practice for a little bit, and then not continue to practice anymore, not be able to continue through. I mean, I’ve proven many times that I’m not a doctor, but I just don’t know what the next step is. He’s trying to manage it, he wants to be a part of the team, he is a part of the team, but he wants to participate, he wants to play, and he’s just trying to get healthy enough to get out there.”
Virginia Tech could really use Carroll on the field. The Hokies struggled on offense vs. the ‘Canes, specifically struggling to gain separation on the outside to make plays. Carroll has never been regarded as a stellar playmaker, but the slot receiver has shown flashes of making a big impact before.
Carroll’s injury is exacerbated with freshman Drake DeIuliis also dealing with an injury. The tight end-turned wide receiver burned his redshirt vs. Boston College, playing limited snaps. However, DeIuliis injured his hamstring in the bye week, and hasn’t been able to go since.
“He played in the Boston College game, and pulled his hamstring in the bye week,” Fuente said. “Then worked hard to get back, and then reinjured it. It’s one of those deals. Like, we were preparing to move forward with him playing a role in what we’re doing, and he’s pretty frustrated and upset about it.”
Fuente said on Monday that he believes DeIuliis will be able to get a medical redshirt.