After an impromptu bye week, Virginia Tech football is back in action and slated to face Old Dominion on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. from Foreman Field. The Hokies have not played at Foreman Field since the 1986 Oyster Bowl, a game Temple won 29-13, but later forfeited because of an ineligible player.
Virginia Tech will travel to the 757 where they have a rich history and a strong fanbase. All-time Hokie greats Bruce Smith, Michael Vick, and DeAngelo Hall hail from the Hampton Roads region, as well as current players Ricky Walker, Deshawn McClease, and Trevon Hill. It will be a sort of homecoming for the fans in the areas, as the away stadium is expected to be filled with maroon and orange.
“I think it’s neat, for lack of a better term, to take our band on the road here and reach out to our fanbase,” said head coach Justin Fuente. “We played in the D.C. area, the northern Virginia area last year. Now, this year we get a chance to play in the 757. Those people have been fantastic fans making that four-plus hour drive to come see us in Blacksburg. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to come to them. We’re excited to go play in this game.
“We do want to be a program that reaches out and says thank you to our fanbase. As far as recruiting, I certainly don’t think it hurts. I don’t know that it’s a gigantic factor in the big scheme of things.”
The Hokies blanked the Monarchs from Lane Stadium last year 38-0 on a day where Steven Peoples racked up a career-high three touchdowns. Bobby Wilder’s program reached its pinnacle in 2016 when Old Dominion finished the year with a victory in the Bahamas Bowl to clinch a 10-win season. After a 5-7 finish last year, the Monarchs have started 2018 with an 0-3 record, including a 28-25 loss to Charlotte last week.
Beyond this week’s game, Virginia Tech has Duke and Notre Dame waiting for their crack at the Hokies. In fact, the matchup against Duke was announced today as a 7 p.m. kickoff on either ESPN2 or ESPNU in what will likely be a battle of unbeaten ACC opponents. How does Fuente keep the focus on Old Dominion in the meantime?
“The thought of us focusing on the next task is not foreign,” Fuente said. “We do it in everything we do. The notion of taking it one step at a time is not new to us. Look across college football and see what happened last week. Look at the teams that beat other teams. We are not in any situation to not do anything other than focus on our next step. We can ill-afford to be anything but completely devoted to what we’ve got going on right now. Quite honestly, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.”
Given the unexpected bye week, it might have been beneficial to prepare for some of those teams with more complicated systems down the road like Georgia Tech, but instead, Fuente took a different route. He called it “a chance to be a blessing” as the young team was given a week early in the season to assess its progress so far.
“We took last week to focus on ourselves,” Fuente said. “We really tried to get back to some fundamentals and evaluate some of the young guys that have played in the first couple ball games. If we didn’t have a little extra time for Georgia Tech, then that’s something that may have entered into the equation. We decided to just really turn our focus inward as we focus on player development and evaluation to see who we’re going to go with moving forward.”
Fuente also had a rare Saturday off where he could sit down and watch some games. Over the years, he’s taken clips of learning moments from other games around the nation to preach to his team the importance of foolish penalties, bad clock management, or dropping the football before crossing the goal line, among others. This week, Fuente was able to observe some of those teaching opportunities firsthand.
“What we do is the guys on our support staff and coaches will text me whenever they see a coaching point event,” Fuente said. “I get with our video guy, Josh Bost, and he puts it all together. In our Friday night meeting, we go through those as a team. This week I got to watch some more of those games myself. We’ll have maybe 10 different ones that we’ll talk about on Friday. It’s one of the things we’ve done the last handful of years and I think it’s helped us be smarter football players.”
Through all of this, Virginia Tech is now four weeks into the season and have yet to have a typical six-day layoff between games. For someone as regimented as Fuente, it’s been a tough adjustment, but the Hokies may finally get that opportunity following the Old Dominion game.
“We haven’t had a normal week yet,” Fuente said. “I sat right here in front of all of you all [last week] and talked about how excited I was to have a normal week. I am anxious to get into a little bit of a routine. I’m a creature of habit as much as anybody.”
- Fuente opened the press conference by offering his thoughts and prayers to those affected by Hurricane Florence. It was a classy move considering the backlash that Virginia Tech got following its response to ECU not traveling to Blacksburg.
- Virginia Tech moved up to No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and maintained a spot at No. 13 in the AP Poll.
- Virginia Tech leads all of college football by only allowing four rushing first downs so far in 2018.