Tech Talk Live Notes: Justin Fuente Talks About The Miami Win

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Virginia Tech

On the big win against Miami…

Our kids responded. We didn’t have a yelling and screaming meeting last Sunday, but an honest and direct meeting. I felt like we needed great improvement from a toughness standpoint, from a mental toughness standpoint, an emotional toughness standpoint, and a physical toughness standpoint. We needed to get a lot better really quickly. We showed them visual examples of that on film and said, ‘We need to make a decision.’ We practiced a lot better this week. Not that we had been practicing the wrong way, but there was another level that we had not reached, and we are going to go reach it right now.

The kids did a great job of sustaining that throughout the whole week and were ultimately rewarded with a victory. I think the bigger thing was that they didn’t take the criticism and coaching and hang their heads, pout, or blame the coaches. It was, ‘Let’s take this and go put this into action.’ I think that says a lot about our young people. The kids do want to be pushed, they want direction, they want to be disciplined, and they do understand, at least in the short term, what it takes to have success and what it requires. There are teams out there that are so talented that they can sleep their way through games. That’s great for them, but we’re not in that category right now. I’m just really proud of the way they responded.

On how stressful the game was…

There’s just so much that went on in that game. It just ages you exponentially as you go through it. I’m sure that the fans understand that as well. To get out to such a big lead early and have everything clicking on all cylinders was great. Then, you have the emotional letdown of a hail mary going into the half and you know that we’ve now given them a boost of momentum.

It ended up coming down to us going to make a play at the end of the game twice. You can imagine the players on the field when the referee says that the game is over. We didn’t just imagine the game was over, they told us it was over. Then, to come back and play another snap and collect yourself, I think that says a lot about what sports can help you with in your life. That was a little disappointing. You go from a great high to having to refocus and play the next snap. To pull it off and get the win was really nice.

On a second being added to the clock…

Our players, I felt like, and we have the GPS data to prove it, they played a long hard game. They didn’t just play a hard game; it was a long, emotional game. It was almost like, by the end, all they could muster was to go play. If you watch the last touchdown, everybody is happy, but everybody is tired too. They were still playing at a high level.

On the first, last play, it goes through your mind of whether it was five seconds. You have no clue. When the ref says it’s over, you get filled with joy and you’re excited. Then, you always get wary when they walk over to put the headset on. You don’t know what they’re saying. We’re just like everybody else, but without television. We don’t know what’s going on. There’s no one really keeping us informed. To find out you have to play another play and finally getting it over, it was kind of like, ‘To heck with it, let’s go inside.’

On the scene in the locker room after the game… 

I almost passed out. I was excited. I was just so happy for our guys. I certainly wasn’t dancing. I had a hold of somebody by the neck. I still, to this moment, do not know who it was. I lost my hat, and somebody slammed it back on me backwards. I’m too old for that. Once you hit 40, you shouldn’t wear your hat backwards. The kids had been through a lot, and we had been through a lot. It was time to let your hair down and have some fun.

On Hendon Hooker… 

I felt like we all needed to step up because we have a guy making his first start. The guy has worked incredibly hard behind the scenes for this opportunity. All of the guys work hard, but Hendon had a great summer. He did a lot of work throwing the ball and spent a lot of time watching film. Here was a great opportunity for him playing against a very good, athletic defensive team. He did a great job taking care of the ball.

The guys around him really rallied around him and they elevated their play. It wasn’t the focus of the week or anything, but when you have a quarterback making his first start, it’s the job of everybody else to rise to the occasion and help his game. In this game, I think he did that for others as well, which is a really good sign. I’m really proud and happy for him.

On the run game…

Our run game is improving. We are continuing to get better, and we’re going to need it as we go forward. Hendon certainly adds a part of that, but our running backs are getting more comfortable with what we’re asking them to do, and our offensive line is getting more experience.

Even the guys that have played a lot on the line are young guys. They’re all getting some good experience. We hit them on a run or two early and got them out of some of those more vanilla looks. Hendon was able to make some of those plays. I was really pleased with our ability to stay on the field on third down against a very good defense.

On what the offense did to keep Miami off guard… 

We got in the huddle a little bit, which we’ve been talking about doing. We substituted some guys in on the offensive line. Silas [Dzansi] has been plagued with cramps and it was a warm night. We made the decision early before the game to rotate him, so he would be available as the game went along. Christian [Darrisaw] ended up with an IV. Then, rolling Doug [Nester] in and out of there at guard because they had two, four, six defensive tackles that could play, so we rolled in Austin Cannon there at guard as well. We’re going to have to continue to roll those people through, and they’re going to have to play well for us to have success.

On the tight end group… 

Even when they don’t catch balls, they’ve been really productive for us. Sometimes, they get the ball a little bit more than others. That centers around the running game primarily, particularly with Dalton [Keene]. When we’re running the ball, it’s a little bit easier to get him the ball with some matchup things. He certainly was productive. He did so many things and it’s awesome to see him get the ball and get to score because we see all of the things that he does when he doesn’t have the ball. He is a physical presence on the field. That game meant a little something to Dalton, which we won’t get into, but he was a physical presence on the field and was rewarded in the passing game.

James Mitchell continues to get better. He had the big, huge catch on the third and three to go down to the four- or five-yard line, which was a huge momentum play at a crucial time. He just continues to get better. That group of players, Drake [Delulis}, Gallo, James, and Dalton, they travel together and walk around together. Cole Blaker is in that group too. They all have their own little handshakes and celebrations and bows that they do. They just enjoy being around each other.

On the situation on the game-winning drive… 

There were a lot of decisions in there. We put the hands team on the field at one point when they were down fourteen. Long story short, we get the ball down there with just over a minute left. We have two timeouts left and they have one. The ball is on about the four-yard line and the game is tied. The first thing you can start to do because you have your timeouts is center the football and take time off the clock. I just didn’t want to be too conservative right there. There are a lot of things that can get messed up there.

Another thing we could do is that we have a signal that say, ‘Don’t score.’ Run the play full speed, but don’t score. We actually have a call on defense that says, ‘Let them score.’ We don’t like to call that. You’re in a bad situation if you have to call that. We have a call for whatever play we’re running and whoever has the ball, run as far as you can, but don’t score. We’re on the four and that thought crossed my mind. I just didn’t want us to hesitate. I decided that we’ll pour it up in there once and we’ll see where we’re at. We scored.

We’re big into situational football. There’s just a lot that goes into it. It depends on who you’re playing, and the game is tied. If you’re down one, it’s a different scenario; if you’re up one, it’s a different scenario. When it’s tied and you don’t want it to go to overtime, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on it at that time.

It ended up being about a minute left and we kicked it deep. They hit one big pass, but the play that really hurt us was that they had a completion and we had a fifteen-yard penalty. I didn’t like that part of our execution, but we have done last play of the game from the eight-yard line and the twelve-yard line a whole bunch. Good against good. Our defense came through. What you want to do if you’re in Miami’s situation is call a run because you know that the defense is going to drop everybody in coverage. Nobody does it though because they don’t want to hear it when they get tackled on the five-yard line.

On winning the turnover battle… 

It’s an amazing statistic. We compile these statistics and emphasize it every single day with what we’re doing. The problem is that you can’t just go out and take a knee every play. Taking the ball away creates field position and it creates momentum and excitement. For our defense to start the game with Chamarri Conner breaking a ball up and it gets tipped up and intercepted. We had an interception on a deep ball in the end zone by Caleb Farley. He did a good job and can really run.

We had another interception on fourth down, backed up when they were on the four-yard line or something like that. They were really big plays that either saved points or created big field position advantages for us. As we get better on defense and continue to improve, we hope to continue to create those opportunities. They usually come when you’re in good position. When you’re in good position, you’re able to deliver blows and have your eyes in the right place and make plays on balls. Good things usually happen. It was really nice to be able to take care of the ball against a team that likes to pride themselves on their ability to create turnovers in Miami. Also, to create those things defensively and set us up early in the game.

On Jermaine Waller… 

I keep talking about Jermaine with our team. I probably should do a better job of talking about Jermaine publicly. He’s such a good practice player. Every single day he’s focused and intent on practicing. He’s highly intelligent and can make all of the calls. He has real self-confidence and never panics out there. It’s a lonely spot out there at corner. The field gets really big when it’s just you and another guy out there. He seems to have himself in a really good position, and I’m really excited about what he can continue to be for us.

On Caleb Farley falling out of the end zone on his second interception… 

I felt that he was being ridden into the field of play. We actually asked about it because we always ask about those kinds of plays. To me, Caleb was not trying to bring the ball out. He was almost trying to just go down and the guy rode him out to the one-yard line. I would rather us have the ball there than them have a touchdown, but really not much he could do about that other than try to jump out of bounds.

It just happened so fast. He jumped on the ball and made the play and the guy kind of had a hold of him. We had another one of those where we intercepted it and ended up at the one-yard line. I thought his momentum carried him into the end zone, and they said those are the right calls, and I have to live with it.

On the play where offensive pass interference was called on Miami and then picked up… 

They called it, and another official that didn’t call the penalty said, ‘No, he got pushed into him.’ I think the original call was correct, it probably should have been pass interference. I’ll say this about the officials. That’s a tough a job that isn’t getting any easier.

The good news is that they’ve done a few things regarding targeting that I think have been good. We all want the game to be as safe as it can be, knowing that there are inherent dangers in this game. Some of the rules that we’ve passed for safety will punish some innocent people in the name of safety. The new rule that they’ve made with reviewing and confirming all of the aspects of targeting has been a good thing. Those innocent bystanders that would have been removed are being saved because of that rule.

On the great rushing defense on Saturday… 

First of all, I don’t know how many sacks we had, but it was a lot. We had pressure all game long. We were very aggressive and put them behind the chains, which has a part in that. We also got a big lead early, which had a part in that, but when they did decide to run the ball, we were there. It’s an offensive coach’s worst nightmare when you become one-dimensional.

DeeJay Dallas is a great college football player, and he made us pay on that long run, but for the rest of the day we did a pretty good job. They run the ball in a couple of different ways. They got the ball on the perimeter a couple of times, but we did a good job of getting them behind the chains and swarming to the football.

On Alan Tisdale… 

Everybody’s talking about his reversal of fortune at the goal line, but he just continues to get better. It was his kind of game. He got a lot of snaps because they were throwing the ball and he’s pretty good in pass coverage. He continues to get better and can really run. He has some things to clean up as he improves. He’s just a freshman, but he’s somebody that we’ve been excited about for a long time. It’s been nice to watch his progress as he continues to get stronger. He’s always been fast, but he’s listened to Bud and taken that coaching and has become a productive player.

On John Parker Romo kicking the ball out of bounds… 

I don’t know that much about it to be honest with you. We don’t want to kick it out of bounds, and we don’t want to kick it in the middle of the field. He’s been great for us. He’s been really productive and takes his performance to heart. He enjoys contributing for this team and he feels a part of it. He sent me a text message today and I just said, ‘Back to work, man.’ We learn and hopefully we can get those things cleaned up and kick the ball in the right spot.

On Oscar Bradburn…

Oscar Bradburn was fantastic and continues to be a weapon for us. Jeff Thomas is just so fast. He wants to take the ball to the field every time on punts and we knew that. We bottled him up every time except for one. For most of the day our guys accepted the challenge, and Oscar did a good job of kicking the ball up. People want to know how far it goes, but we want to know how high it goes because we need to get down there and bottle up those returners. I don’t know how many they had, but it was quite a few.

On Caleb Farley fielding the ball on the possible onside kick… 

He just wasn’t sure. We tell those guys to ere on the side of caution because we want the ball. Looking at the film, we have our hands team out there. We tell those guys to go block somebody when the ball is kicked deep, but he’s not surveying the field, he’s sprinting to go get the ball on the other side of the field. He got the ball and secured possession for us.

On Miami going for two, down fourteen… 

We have all of these analytics now which are really good, and we’ve subscribed to. There are some things in there that say that’s a good idea, but it’s still purely math. There are some things that don’t take real life into consideration. That scenario is one that the analytics say to go for two because it gives you two opportunities to go for two. I have had that discussion with our staff. For me, that’s not what we would do. For him, it didn’t end up hurting him. It actually helped him because they missed the extra point. Yes, the numbers say that’s what you should do, but there aren’t a lot of people that want to subscribe to that.

On Rhode Island… 

We have to move on. We have to get our team mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to go play at a high level. We have a team coming in here that won last week. We shouldn’t be misguided by their record. They went into triple overtime with Delaware, and Delaware almost beat Pitt. They have two wide receivers that can play anywhere in America. Two big-time wideouts that can really go. They have a return guy that is really dynamic. Their quarterback has thrown six touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last two games. We have to create our identity not through one game, but every day. We have to roll our sleeves up tomorrow with the same intensity that we had last Tuesday. 

On Rhode Island’s experience… 

They’re old everywhere. They have four seniors in the secondary. Those receivers, one has a huge game for 160 yards and people try to double him. Then, the other guy has a huge game. They’re really dynamic and do a good job with their scheme. They move them around, inside and outside. They returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Their return game is really dynamic, so we’re going to have our hands full.

On Rhode Island Head Coach, Jim Fleming… 

He was at Central Florida (defensive coordinator) for a time when I was just starting at Memphis. For a time there, we played them twice. All of those teams were very sound and well-coached. It wasn’t about fluff and crazy stuff. It was about people being where they’re supposed to be and playing their tails off. That’s what I see from them at Rhode Island.

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9 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. “That game meant a little something to Dalton, which we won’t get into”

    Guessing him taking a bow and pancaking some folks.

  2. Oscar Bradburn’s probably been our best overall player over last season and this. Nothing like the D stopping a pretty good series for UM, then O punts them back to the starting gate (when we don’t move the ball)

    ‘course Jeff Thomas was there but…that’s the 2nd part off the equation.

  3. Another good quote, “Once you hit 40, you shouldn’t wear your hat backwards.” That’s up there with Gundy’s “I’m a man! I’m 40!” Now I’m waiting for once you hit 40 you shouldn’t have a mullet.

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