Hokies Look Ahead to Avenging Last Year’s Loss to ODU

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Justin Fuente Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente and his players get a chance this Saturday to get over last year’s loss to ODU by beating the Monarchs. (Jon Fleming)

Even a committed Virginia Tech recruit in the stands was just as stunned as every other Hokie fan in attendance at S.B. Ballard Stadium during last year’s 49-35 loss to Old Dominion. True freshman Tayvion Robinson, a Virginia Beach native, was proudly wearing his Hokies gear and pumped to see his future teammates play near his hometown, but instead, he left with that same feeling of ‘what just happened?’

This year, Robinson will attempt to right the wrongs from the 2018 loss to the Monarchs in Virginia Tech’s home opener on Saturday (noon, ESPNU). Robinson has already emerged as one of Virginia Tech’s biggest weapons on the outside, hauling in six catches for 72 yards and a touchdown in his first collegiate action last Saturday.

“It was shocking,” Robinson said of last year’s loss to ODU at Tuesday’s press conference. “Everybody has their ups and downs, and certainly that wasn’t our best time. We’ve been working all summer, all fall and we’re ready to go out.”

The upset in Norfolk was undoubtedly a monumental turning point of the season. The aftershocks of last year’s loss to Old Dominion are still being felt today for Virginia Tech.

Trevon Hill was dismissed from the team following the game, and the Hokies really haven’t had someone who can consistently get after the quarterback since. Quarterback Josh Jackson broke his fibula in the midst of the game, his last game while donning the maroon and orange. He’s now the starter at Maryland and threw for four touchdowns in the first half in the Terrapins’ season-opening win over Howard.

Still, following the humiliating defeat, Virginia Tech responded the next week and played what may have been the best game of the season, beating Duke and No. 6 overall draft choice Daniel Jones, 31-14. 

“How we’ve handled adversity, I think our guys have done a great job on that,” head coach Justin Fuente said. “I think we’ll continue to preach that. I’m not trying to get corny, but things don’t always go your way in football and in life. You can’t just sit down and complain about it. You roll your sleeves up and go back to work. I think our guys understand that. I think they are anxious to go play again.”

Ryan Willis has also been the quarterback every game for the Hokies since that fateful affair in Norfolk. Following a four-turnover performance against Boston College to begin the season, the redshirt senior is anxious to take the field at Lane Stadium to not only correct last year’s woes against the Monarchs, but last week’s mistakes versus Boston College.

“I kind of looked myself in the mirror and said I have two choices,” Willis said. “I can either feel bad for myself and sulk and feel like the world’s crashing down on me, or my second choice I can put it behind me, I can flush it, I can learn and grow from it and get ready for a team who is coming into our place to [try to] beat us.”

Blake LaRussa carved up Bud Foster’s defense last year to the tune of 494 passing yards and four touchdowns. Throughout the afternoon, wide receivers Travis Fulgham and Jonathan Duhart beat the Hokies’ young secondary time after time.

However, those three weapons will not have the chance to wreak the same misery on Virginia Tech as LaRussa is now in seminary school, while Fulgham and Duhart have graduated. Instead, Stone Smartt will be behind center as the Monarchs’ signal caller.

Smartt is a JUCO transfer from Riverside City in California where he passed for 2,754 yards, 31 touchdowns and three interceptions last year. In the season-opening 24-21 win over Norfolk State, Smartt was 17-for-23 passing for 158 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He also picked up 50 yards on the ground, including a rushing touchdown.

“The thing I’ve been impressed with about the quarterback is he’s a big, athletic kid,” Foster said of Smartt, who stands 6-foot-4, 220-pounds. “He can run, he’s good with the ball in his hands, he made some good throws. He’s got some talent around him.”

While Foster notes that Bobby Wilder’s offense hasn’t changed too much, he does expect to see more of Smartt being used in the running game on Saturday.

“Offensively they’re doing the same thing that they’ve been doing,” Foster said. “The only thing I did see is a couple quarterback runs. They did that too with the [Steven] Williams kid when he was in there a couple years ago, so they have that capability in their offense.

“I think there will be some other designed run plays for the quarterback. I can see that happening with them. I don’t think they showed much of what they’re capable of doing.”

The Hokies have largely blocked out the noise and the talk about last year’s meeting, but that result is certainly still in the back of every player’s mind. Come Saturday at noon, Virginia Tech has 60 minutes to put that loss far away in memory with an impressive performance.

“It goes through our mind a little bit… yes, there’s a little motivation from that, but it’s a new year,” linebacker Dax Hollifield said. “Last year is last year. Just have to focus on this year. It’s a whole different team.”

Virginia Tech News and Notes

  • Former Hokies Eric Kumah and Chris Cunningham, who both transferred to ODU, will return to Lane Stadium in grand fashion, as Bobby Wilder named the duo captains for Old Dominion on Saturday. Kumah was the Monarch’s leading receiving with 65 receiving yards in their opener, including a huge 31-yard reception on the go-ahead drive, while Cunningham caught just one pass for 12 yards.
  • Rayshard Ashby was named ACC Linebacker of the Week for the work he did against Boston College in week one. Ashby was outstanding, recording 13 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss.
  • Foster is hopeful that TyJuan Garbutt and Jovonn Quillen will be available for Saturday. He mentioned that Garbutt has been practicing in the blue jersey for limited contact while Quillen’s injury wasn’t nearly as bad as anticipated.
  • Longtime Virginia Tech assistant coach Bryan Stinespring also returns to Blacksburg as Old Dominion’s tight ends coach and run game coordinator. Stinespring spent 26 seasons at Virginia Tech. “Outstanding football coach, even a better man,” Foster said. “He’s as competitive as any guy I know.”


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17 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Tech need to prepare like they are playing someone who could beat them, which ODU can as illustrated last year. It was obvious that we entered their stadium assuming that showing up was going to get the job done and by time ODU began to punch back, we were in trouble. With that said, we do also need to realize that we are the better team so it is expected that we should win. If both team brought their A games, we should win by three scores.

    As a whole, this team has to “claw” for everything they get this season. Based on our schedule, Tech has enough talent to win every game with some games (i.e., ND, Miami, and Virginia all on the road) requiring close to a flawless but not completely perfect performance. This is assuming of course the health of the team and we do not suffer significant injuries which, unfortunately kind of showed up after game one. The toughest challenge for this team right now is do they know how or do they believe that they can win games. Do they realize the sustained effort required to win and can? When things are going well and there is opportunity to put the dagger to the heart, can they put a game away without self destruction? Without doubt, to lose to BC by only a touchdown with an opportunity to still send the game into overtime says something about the potential of the team and their determination to fight to the end but my concern is more of the psyche of this team and belief in winning.

  2. proud of “big play Tay” for sitting in the stands witnessing that meltdown and still staying committed / not transferring.

  3. AVENGING the loss to ODU is a bit strong. Avenge means that you are seeking retribution for an injustice that was done to you. What ODU did last year was not an injustice as they were merely doing what any opponent would do; making every effort to beat you and take advantage of your weakness(es). The fact that they were able to overcome overwhelming odds and beat an alleged superior team speaks volumes for their desire and our lack thereof. I think the appropriate term for the game on Saturday is REMITTANCE. We owe ourselves the cleansing of the smell that has saturated this team since that loss. Much like walking upon a skunk and being sprayed you don’t seek revenge on the skunk, you clean yourself up. VT has the opportunity to banish the jokes and perception that somehow they are on even keel with ODU and show the world (and themselves) that they are indeed better. They need to go out onto the field Saturday and put a total ass whipping on ODU and forgive themselves and their teammates for the performance last year and move on.

    1. To each their own. I on the other hand would go back hunt that dang skunk from long distance. And truth be told I would probably jiggle the dead carcass with a few rounds for good measure.

      I also recall some Miami like antics by the Monarchs directed AT the Hokie players not just celebrating among themselves. So to your point about the use of Avenge, I think Revenge is a better word: retaliation for real or perceived wrong doings.

      I do not see eye to eye with a man who would not be grinding his teeth dying to get back on that field against ODU. Sure it isn’t all about what ODU did or didn’t do, rather it is about restoring in one’s own mind what they should have done before and making absolutely sure to oneself it will not happen again.

      And the next skunk I see better be working hard to avoid ME.

    2. While I agree with your comment, you improperly used the word avenge and remittance. I agree with Cory’s usage of the word avenge. It says to ” inflict harm in return for (an injury or wrong done to oneself or another)” The harm we wish to inflict will be on the scoreboard. The injury we received was losing to a team we should have beaten. ODU did there job. The team was embarrassed by the score, by coaching, by team and individual play as well, I believe. Remittance has to do with the sending of money. I looked at three definitions. ODU will get there cut of the gate, just as Tech did when I was there and we would go to Alabama or Texas A & M and usually get worn out! When we were independent we played VMI, Richmond, and William and Mary sometimes every year! It was there game of the year and on occasion we would get beat, usually at home. It did nothing for us, as we were looking for a conference. They were growing pains. What we need to worry about this week, and believe me, both Coaches know it, is Coach Stinespring. Twenty Six years at Tech and a number of them calling the Offense! No one seemed to like him all that much, except Coach Beamer. We did not like his play calling.
      But make no mistake, he knows the game and he knows Bud Fosters Defense. Notice he is there “Run game Coordinator”. They wont be coming here to lose. I trust our QB spent hours, like the coaches studying what we did right and wrong last week. Good Luck to us this Saturday!

  4. This ODU program brings a lot of inside knowledge of the VT program! FU and staff really need to come up with some surprises. If is business as usual it could be another long day.

    1. Who’s concerned? I’m not. Could we lose? I guess. But there’s a chance any one of us COULD possibly not make it to Saturday to witness it. But I’m not concerned about that, not concerned about ODU either. We play our C game we win by 14+

      1. I think most fans are concerned about every game these days considering how mediocre we are any game could be a loss. If we play our “C” game against ODU that would be pretty pathetic coming off a loss and it being our first home game. If we don’t win by 30 it will be a let down (spread is 28.5 presently).

        1. Agreed. Let’s see some improvement. Let’s see an upward trend. Let’s see good execution.

          The locker room speech should be a la George C Scott in the movie Patton: “If we’re not victorious, let no man come back alive.” Frankly, the grit I would want to show my coach would be that I don’t care that he is joking.

          If I was a player, I would not want thirty years from now, when I’m sitting around the fireside with my grandson on my knee and he asks me, “What did you do at Tech when you played ODU?” I would not want to say, “Well . . . I got embarrassed by ODU twice.”

    1. Boy you are a homer!
      Goodness Gracious – like the teams loss somehow did something to you…dont hitch your wagon to a game played by 18-23 yr olds!

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