Tech Talk Live Notes: Fuente Discusses The UNC Win

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Justin Fuente was Monday’s guest on Tech Talk Live. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

On tackling Bud Foster at the end of the game…

I don’t know if two people have ever fallen to the ground any slower than we fell to the ground. No, we were not going for the elevated chest bump, I was just really happy and so was he.  When I knew we were going down, I was trying to hold onto him to keep him from falling, and I think he was holding onto me.  So, I think we really slowly crumpled to the ground.  I was happy he was okay, he’s had a lot of knee problems, so I felt terrible. He was in the weight room today and said, “I’ve got to get back in here Fu, you kind of knocked me on my tail.” I mean it’s really a miracle that nobody was injured in the filming of that stunt.  The fact that I didn’t pull a hamstring or a calf muscle trying to jump up and down is a miracle.  I really felt bad, I was happy and Bud was happy, and I didn’t mean to take him to the ground there, but it was all fun.

“It’s never about us, we don’t walk around patting each other on the back.  It’s about the kids, because we see so much more of these kids and what they sacrifice and the work they put in.  We want them to have success, you have a tremendous sense of ownership in trying to make sure that they have a positive experience.  When they come through in times of struggle, which I think everybody always tries to draw parallels between football and life, the bottom line is there are parallels between sports and life. Working hard and going through adversity and fighting through, the bottom line was, our guys continued to play the next play and they didn’t give up, and things aren’t always going to go the way you want them to go, but in life as in sports, you have to find a way to go play the next play to the best of your ability.  Our guys did that in a tough, hard situation.  To see them pull through, you don’t care about how you look or if there’s a camera on you, you’re just happy and happy for the kids.  Sitting back and seeing them celebrate in the locker room is really special.

On the difference between blowouts and close, tough wins like Saturday… 

We’re certainly not, particularly this year, going to have many of those games (blowouts).  That’s just where we’re at.  We’ve seen this coming for several years now.  Our first couple years we played a couple games that were lopsided in our favor, but that’s not happening this year.  We’re going to have to battle tooth and nail.  We got in a close game versus ODU, and I felt like as a team, we panicked a little bit.  We were in a similar situation against UNC and we didn’t panic, we didn’t flinch.  We continued to play the next play and trust in what we’re doing and ultimately found a way to pull it out.

On the new turf at UNC…

If I’m not mistaken, they have some work being done on their indoor practice facility, and they were practicing in the stadium.  I did know that they were re-sodding the middle of the field.  I didn’t know what it was going to look like or how it was going to be.  I didn’t think it was going to be a huge issue when we went out and saw it.  Maybe aesthetically it didn’t look like what you expect a field to look like, but I didn’t feel like it was a huge issue throughout the game for either side.  I thought they did a good job of getting the field ready to play and I thought it was perfectly fine.

On the drive to win the game against UNC…

You think about the emotions from them having the ball down there on the goal line with about seven minutes to go and causing the fumble.  You go from in my mind, can we hold them to a field goal, there’s still plenty of time on the clock, there’s seven minutes left.  It’s certainly not going to make things easier if they score there, but we still have time, we have all of our timeouts, so that’s what I’m thinking.  All of the sudden, they fumble, the ball pops up in the air, and once you realize it’s the ball and not a piece of equipment, you see Quillen.  I think he’s going to pick it up and score, there’s nobody there.  Then, it takes him thirty seconds to corral the ball as he’s kicking it and bumbling it around.  Then, he gets the ball, but he’s at the two-yard line.  I thought at worst, we’re going to be in the end zone, at best I thought we were going to score.  Anyway, we get it at the two.  First thing is, we’ve practiced these things, and I’m very proud of how they took practice to the field in terms of the situational football that we found ourselves in at the end of the game.  It was really neat for a guy that likes football and situational football and all of those kinds of things. Everything from the last play when North Carolina has the ball, we’ve practiced that where our offense goes out there and throws around the ball and we try to net the ball to that drive there in terms of preserving time, trying to find a way.  Then, you get the ball inside the ten and you have little time left.  Anyway, we get the ball and we’re driving and it’s so hard, the first goal is to get a first down, but there are a couple plays in there when it’s third down and I’m thinking, we have all of our timeouts, if we don’t get this, we probably punt. Then, we have the ball for so long, that you’re out of that window and now it’s for sure four downs every single time.  So you’re just going down the list of what the situation is in your mind as you’re trying to get the ball down the field.  There were a lot of big plays, Steven Peoples had a huge catch on third and long.  Obviously, Ryan had a big scramble on fourth down and long to get the team down there.

On when he knew it was all or nothing…

I don’t know off the top of my head when that was, but I remember vividly having the discussion on a third down, certainly after we punched the ball out of there, where I said if we don’t get this on third down, we’re probably still going to punt the ball because we have our timeouts. I don’t know how many plays it ended up being, like eighteen plays, it’s like “well heck, we’re all in now.”  The clock’s down and we don’t have much choice to go all in.  I was really proud of our staff when we got the ball on the goal line because that’s a dicey situation there, especially when you’ve exhausted your timeouts.  I really wanted to try and save one of them because the worst thing you can do is end up in a situation where you can’t get the last play off. That’s what you want to do, you’re trying to maximize your opportunities, but you’re down there so close.  Ryan, I thought, was really close to getting in on that third down scramble, and then they spot it down and they have a player hurt.  Now you’ve got your team on the field and the clock is going to start when they chop it in.  So if you saw the film, Ryan is waiting for the ref to chop it in while we’re up there to try and save all of those timeouts.  I was really proud of the way they handled all of those little details to try and maximize our opportunities.

On how Ryan Willis was dialed in for the last drive…

It was a fantastic drive.  He did a fantastic job getting us down there.  He certainly had some ups and downs throughout the game.  Really on both sides of the ball I thought there were some routine plays on defense and on offense that were very cumbersome for us that really hurt us.  They put us behind the chains or gave up big plays, I would like to see us execute a little bit better, but they put it together on that last drive.

On the “let down” after the hot start on Saturday…

I’ve certainly been a part of games like that, where you maybe jump out to an early lead and everybody kind of relaxes.  The next thing you know, you’re in a dogfight and struggling to find momentum.  I have felt like that before, I didn’t feel like that in that game. It concerned me because on the run that we got the fumble, they got like eight yards.  It wasn’t like we hit the guy in the backfield and the ball went spraying out, he was down the field.  We knew they were going to be ready, you talk about distractions and what they’ve been through in terms of suspensions, I think they’re kind of rounding out now.  The big question has been their quarterback play, can they take care of the football.  I didn’t feel like that was the issue.  We throw an interception that bounces off our receiver and gets picked on what should be a good play.  We just, at a couple positions, we didn’t play very well or very efficiently, and it hurt us.  It made everything else harder, and we’re not good enough to overcome those things at this point.

On Malik Carney unexpectedly playing Saturday…

We had planned that he was going to serve his suspension in that game, everything that we knew said he was going to, but we saw him out there in warmups and we just decided, ‘I guess he’s going to play.’  He’s a very good player, don’t get me wrong, they’re a better defense when he’s out there.  I don’t know how it all worked out, it’s really none of my business, but when he was out there in warmups, we knew we better be ready.

On the issues with the run game…

It’s kind of like a chain reaction.  They did some things after having a little extra time, in terms of movement, that we didn’t handle very well up front, but made some adjustments and kind of had an answer for that as the game went on.  They played us in a little more one-high, and had an extra player in the box, and we had what I would consider routine plays that we didn’t make that could never threaten them in what they were doing and get them out of it.  This kind of led to our struggles between the movement and us not threatening them with what they were trying to do, that never forced them to have to do much more.

On Ryan Willis using the ‘Andy Dalton Dive’ to convert on fourth down late in the game…

We’ve got him on the Andy Dalton dive tape.  Andy was our quarterback at TCU and he was the best I’ve ever seen at finding a way to get down on the ground head first when there is a little bit of room there because you actually get more yards that way and you’re a little less exposed.  You’ve got to have a little savvy in there to do it.  We’ve had a little bit of Andy Dalton dive tape for our guys to watch of him running the ball and not taking shots and getting on the ground head first. 

On Willis almost getting into the end zone on a scramble…

It all worked out fine in the end, but it was a precarious situation there with no timeouts.  I couldn’t see anything on the field, I’ve got no idea if he’s in or not in, I’m trying to look at the board.  Then they’ve got a player down and we have no timeouts left and twenty seconds or so on the clock, and we have all these downs to play with, but not a lot of time.  Fortunately, we had a little bit of time to talk it out.

On whether he’s been through a drive like that in his time playing/coaching football…

I don’t know, I’ve been through a couple of drives like that at the end of the game.  I don’t know that it’s ever been 98 yards with that many conversions with a touchdown to win the game, I don’t recall that ever happening.

On the surprising success that Dazz Newsome had on punt returns and the decision to punt rugby-style…

There were a couple of things that went into his success.  First of all, he’s a great returner.  Second of all, we wanted to rugby-style a little bit to keep the ball out of his hands.  As ugly as that looks when the ball is rolling end over end down there, it is really effective when used properly.  It’s like sugar, too much of something is bad for you, but if you sprinkle it in you can really make some hay with it. We had the one missed tackle, we were down there right on his toes and smacked him good, but didn’t wrap him up and gave up the return.  The other return was a really long yardage return and there was no real threat of a fake, so there were three double teams on one side of the field.  It was a low punt, not unbelievably low, and he made a couple guys miss and got a good return. So, we’ve got a few things we’re continuing to try and work on.  We’ve been down a few guys in our coverage unit, it’s been one of those things we’ve been concerned about.  We had a couple of freshmen we thought were coming around really well, and they’ve gotten hurt, Nadir Thompson is one of them.  He’s out for the year, and he’s a guy we really thought was going to be a gunner for us, and he was making strides.  We’re a little bit cautious with Divine for obvious reasons of trying to put on that stuff because we’re trying to get him through at free safety.

On trying to find a consistent punt returner… 

We’ve just got to do a better job.  We’re not doing a good enough job of communicating back there.  There’s so much that goes into that position that has nothing to do with returning the ball, and not just fielding it, but making good decisions, saving yardage, communicating.  You’ve got ten other guys on the field blocking for you.  We teach those guys to look at you, we talk about it, you don’t see guys on punt returns looking up for the ball because they can’t block their person and look up for the ball.  Their key is from the returner, so they’re constantly peeking at the returner for the returner to communicate where the ball is, has it hit the ground, are we giving it a Peter call, so we can get away from it.  We do all of those things so we don’t have a disaster.  We haven’t done a good job of communicating back there and saving yardage, and we’ve been fortunate so far. If we don’t find somebody back there who can communicate and help us out a little bit, it’s going to hurt us.

On C.J. Carroll ending his football career…

I really feel sorry for C.J., he just works so hard.  He’s been dealing with this darn foot deal for several years now.  I think the thing that bothers him the most, I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he was just starting to be a good contributor for us when the foot issue came up.  He’s really just battled and battled and battled to get back.  We tried to protect him every way possible coming into this season in terms of having him sit out during camp and work with the punt return role.  I certainly understand where he’s coming from, he got a little bit more dinged up in the Notre Dame game and just felt like he couldn’t do it much longer.  He’s been a fantastic teammate a fantastic worker, if you gave him a challenge, he’d go after it head on.  I challenged him a few years ago, I said, ‘I don’t think your hands are very strong.’ He’s got those little hands and he’s not a big guy.  Every time I shook his hand from then on out, he was trying to smash my hand.  He really worked on his grip strength and just was a really fun young man to coach, and I know he will be successful with whatever he pursues in the future.

On the keys heading into the bye week…

It’s a unique challenge to get the practice schedule together because it’s not a true bye week and us having the triple option on the other end of it.  There will probably be still be some developmental work done, but it will most likely be centered more on the next opponent than it usually would.  What we’ll do is we will take some good time to introduce Georgia Tech on offense, defense, and special teams.  Then, when we get done with some of that work, we’ll dismiss some of those guys that are playing quite a bit and keep some of the guys that aren’t getting as many reps out there and do some developmental work for the second half of practice.  That’s the plan, we’ll do that for the first couple days. We won’t be able to do that for an entire week, we only have a couple of days that we can do that.  Then we’ll turn our full attention to Georgia Tech.  The uniqueness of the opponent dictates what we’re doing, but we’ve got to continue to bring some guys along on special teams and have some guys ready in case their number is called during the stretch run. 

On Quincy Patterson…

I’ve been pleased, I’ve been pleased with all of those guys.  I want to make it clear that Hendon is the backup and he’s responsible for the entire package right now.  Brad Cornelsen sat down with all of those guys before the game and said, ‘this is what may happen.’  I’m proud of the way they selflessly understood those things.  I’ve been pleased with Hendon’s development, I’ve been pleased with Quincy.  We’ll continue to evaluate that as we go through the season and see where it leads us.  He’s only played in one game, he’s got four before he can’t redshirt anymore. We’ll just see how it goes, but I was happy with his composure while he was in there, I was happy with how he handled the couple of plays that he executed, and we think he’s got a chance to really give us something.

On why Patterson was put in at the time he was…

We had some things, some short-yardage stuff, some goal line stuff, some open field stuff that we felt good about him being able to execute.  If need be, throw the ball around, whatever we needed to do, but overall a limited package.  When we got that first down, Cornelsen said, ‘Give me Quincy.’  We needed a chance to run the ball a little, we had struggled there.  We wanted to give him a chance to get in there and tote the rock a little bit.  I asked Quincy after the game, ‘Were you nervous?’ He said, ‘No, I knew the plays that we were going to call when I was in there and you can’t be nervous when you’re running the ball.’  I thought it was good and worked out well.

On his emotions on the sideline…

I’m really happy sometimes that the cameras don’t catch me.  I try with all of my might and try to focus on whatever decisions need to be made to help our team, but it’s hard for me sometimes. I do believe in trying to help the guys on the field go out and succeed, and I’m plenty animated with them behind closed doors.  I’m not into making a spectacle.  I’m certainly not into embarrassing the kids, but sometimes you have to make your point and make your point loudly and clearly.  It’s something I wrestle with, when I was a head coach early in my career at Memphis and we struggled, I felt like our team needed that, but I didn’t want to hurt the team. It’s something I’ve really tried to focus on, making sure I stay in control of what we’re doing so we can give ourselves a chance to win the game.

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13 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. “Brad Cornelsen sat down with all of those guys [the quarterbacks] before the game and said, ‘this is what may happen.’ I’m proud of the way they selfishly understood those things.”

    Coarh Fu said “selflessly” not “selfishly”.

  2. Coach, say something nice about CJ Carroll: “..words…words…words…words…words…..gush….words….strong hands.”

    Coach, say something nice about Quincy Patterson:
    “..words…words…words…words…words…..gush….words….special package.”

    Coach, say something nice about Ryan Willis:

    1. Saying really good things about Willis is tantamount to saying “You know, I chose the wrong dang QB to start the ODU game, and would have done the same for the Duke game.” Coach Fu isn’t going to say that, and I understand that. However, he has a pass – JJ got hurt, so he can say a few things good about Willis. Dang – Willis makes a nice play and Fu credits Andy Dalton? Seriously? Maybe he is afraid it will go to Ryan’s head. I don’t think he likes Ryan’s personality, which I can understand. But, it seems a shame.

      1. And if you watch the final drive you’ll notice Willis was almost picked off at least twice.

        I don’t get the hatefest for JJ OR the love fest for Willis If anything, Willis displayed in the UNC game why he was named the backup and not the starter.

        1) He has bad decision making as evidenced by:
        a. the scramble leading to a fumble-touchdown in the Notre Dame game
        b. forcing passes to Hazelton when he has other receivers open
        –30% of his passes were to Hazelton on Saturday and he went 2/11 on those passes for an NFL passer rating of 0. His other passes went 18/25 for 2 TDs and an INT (102.9 NFL passer rating)
        c. the ball he threw to Patterson that got picked

        2) As David Hale pointed out yesterday on his Twitter account, Willis is inaccurate with the deep ball (passes 21+ yards in the air) at 6/20 for 1TD whereas JJ was 3/6 for 2TD this year. Hale has also pointed out repeatedly how consistent JJ was on the deep ball last year and how well he took care of the ball on those throws which leads to…

        3) Willis doesn’t take care of the ball (4 turnovers in 2 games), which is a big no-no with Coach Fuente whereas JJ has a 25:10 TD:INT ratio in 16 games

        The one thing they both need to work on is an internal clock to know when to get rid of the ball, they’re both too slow with that. JJ also needs to pull the trigger a little more often on the deep pass.

        If I were a betting man (I’m not) and JJ is somehow healthy and ready by the Pitt game (minimum time to recover from a broken leg), I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to the starting lineup. That said, I suspect they’ll hold him until the bowl game since he’s only played 3 games, which would qualify Josh for a medical redshirt if he chose to go that route.

        1. WADR I think your comments regarding Willis are bunk. He spread the ball all around to 6 receivers, including an RB AND a TE.
          He’s done a good job under difficult circumstances and despite what you write has shown good touch on medium and deep passes.
          And the pass to People’s for the first down on the last drive, he’s the only QB on our roster that could have completed that deep out, period.

          1. Go rewatch the game and look at the box score and the play-by-play summary.

            * Willis threw 36 passes
            * 11 of them were to Hazelton, two of which were completed
            * 11/36 = 30.5%. So he targeted Hazelton just over 30% of the time
            * 2/11 = 18% completion rate
            * He went 18/25 on his other passes
            * 18/25 = 72%
            * On the final drive he was nearly picked off twice.

            Were it not for Hazelton and Patterson making places to ensure they were incompletions, we’d talking about how Tech lost the game. Only instead of focusing on Willis’s decision making, you’d be complaining about the play calling (like some are now) to deflect the issues with the man at QB to push your own narrative.

            And difficult circumstances? He’s a redshirt junior. Two years in the system or not, he’s had 4 years in college football. If this were any other 4th year starter you’d all be complaining about how he focused too much on Hazelton, made bad decisions with the ball, etc. But because people just flat out don’t like Josh Jackson for whatever reason this has turned into Bryan Randall vs. Marcus Vick part 2 and we all remember how the 2003 season ended.

            But, sure, ignore the numbers that show Jackson has a better completion rate on deep passes in his two years at VT vs Willis this season. Ignore the fact that on passes that traveled 11+ yards downfield last year Jackson had a 15:2 TD:INT ratio and a 170.8 NCAA passer rating (second best in the ACC last year). Ignore the fact that an elite season in the NFL is a TD:Int ratio over 3.5, a very good one is over 2 and that Jackson has a career TD:INT ratio of 2.5, and last season had a TD:INT ratio of 7.5 on passes where the ball traveled at least 11 yards. Ignore the fact that he only throws an interception once every 45 passes but throws touchdowns once every 18 passes. Ignore that Willis has thrown twice as many interceptions in his career with only 118 more passes (25%) than Josh.

          2. Didn’t get to finish my post because of RL and wanted to not forget about it later so I submitted earlier than I’d have liked but as I was going to say…

            Ignore all of the stats and eye test that shows that Willis’ decision making is suspect because it doesn’t fit YOUR narrative — a narrative that you believe you know better than our coaches who should be the starting QB.

            If you truly believe you know better, then I challenge you to go to Whit Babcock and tell him to fire Justin Fuente and hire you as head coach.

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