Tech Talk Live Notes: Justin Fuente On The UNC Win

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Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente spoke about Tech’s win over UNC. (Ivan Morozov)

On what it’s like to coach in a six-overtime game…

To say that it’s stressful would be an understatement. I’m just obviously proud of the effort from our guys. We talked about this on the radio after the game, you feel fortunate to win a game like that, and if it had gone the other way by six inches, I’d be just as proud of our kids and how they competed and ultimately how they played. It didn’t go the wrong way, so I’m awfully happy.

There are so many things that happened in that game, and we had so many opportunities to win the game. The story of the game, in my opinion, not that anybody in the media will ever listen to me, but in my opinion, it was the number of reserves that came in and didn’t just play, but played at a high level. That is a great sign of the health of your team. They were prepared to play.

When you play a team like we played at the level that the game was being played at, if you’re not prepared, it will get exposed really quickly. We had several players on both sides of the ball step up and play. They either weren’t traditional starters and they were playing, or they didn’t start the game as a starter and before they knew it, they were taking significant snaps.

On the celebration after the game…

It certainly is memorable. I’ve been fortunate to either coach or play in big games, but the fondest memories I have are sharing those victories or accomplishments with other people. That can be the people that you work with, or the people in your own home, your wife and your kids. Those are the fun parts of it.

The rollercoaster of emotions throughout the game and then the elation at the end. You could probably stop short of saying pandemonium, but it was pretty crazy. We’ve had a couple of those, three in the last three years at Lane Stadium. We had the goal line stand against Pitt, the game with UVA last year, and this game with North Carolina where the final play decides the game, and everybody just loses their minds. It’s pretty fun.

On Khalil Ladler…

The thing about Khalil is that Khalil wants to be a starter. We all want bigger roles. The quarterback wants to throw it more. The receiver that’s starting wants to catch more, and the receiver that’s not starting doesn’t want to just play in the second quarter or rotate, and that’s human nature. Being prepared when you are called upon leads to bigger roles.

I was really proud of the two two-point plays that he stopped, but overall, he’s been good. He’s been a very good special teams player for us, he continues to improve and work hard. Chamarri is a very talented player in the same position which is a good thing for us. It’s very nice for Khalil and he has a team-first attitude to be ready when called upon.

On Quincy Patterson…

I’m really proud of him and happy for him. Those of you that don’t know Quincy, he is the most even keeled person that I know. He is just steady. You can never tell if anything bothers him. He would probably be a great poker player. In the game, he was prepared when his number was called on. He never acted out of sorts, or as if the moment was too big for him, or nervous. He just concentrated on doing his job and trying to find a way for us to win the game.

When asked to throw the ball, he was very efficient with some timely plays and big plays that helped us win the ball game. A really well-prepared performance. Brad Cornelsen doesn’t get enough credit for using three quarterbacks and having them all throw and be productive. I thought Hendon was a little nervous to start the game, but once he settled down, he was clicking, and we were rolling.

Then, he’s out and Ryan is in there and he throws a touchdown. We come out in the second half thinking that Hendon is going to play, but he goes out there and he can’t go. Ryan goes out there and drives us down there and takes a sack and we have to punt. We put the third quarterback in and were still productive. Having three guys ready to play says a lot about the job Brad is doing.

On how difficult it was to adjust to the quarterback changes…

It’s like getting halfway through a test and having the proctor come in and switch the test on you. Then, you work for half an hour on that test and they come in and switch it out and give you another one. That’s basically what Brad went through. He did a fantastic job of piecing it all together there when we made the decision to switch from Ryan [Willis] to Quincy [Patterson]. It really showed a good understanding of the kids.

We can all draw up offensive plays and schemes, but what can the kids execute? Having a good handle on what your kids can do is what’s really most important. For him to continue to put all three of those guys in good situations throughout the day was incredible.

On Damon Hazelton’s touchdown catch in double-overtime…

It was a great call and great execution by Damon and the entire offense. That was a lot of conversation that went into that call. It was 4th and 3, so obviously, if we don’t get the first down, the game is over. That was the biproduct of Quincy being a threat running the ball. We got great looks on the outside and he just dropped it right in there. I didn’t know until the next day that he only caught it with one arm. Then, I saw it and they threw the flag because he couldn’t pull his right arm out of there. Just a great, clutch execution at a pretty important time.

On the offense…

I’m pretty excited about the whole thing. The guys are starting to gain a little bit of confidence. Hendon, once he settled down, was playing pretty well. He’s a threat both running and throwing the ball. We will have him back. He’s going to be fine. I was concerned about that. I woke up Sunday morning and that was the first thing on my mind. I thought, ‘We’re going to have to make some changes here because I don’t know if we’re going to have him back.’

We got good news there. Those guys have confidence in each other. Quincy can play a role now. He got some really good game time experience. It’s exciting to see what we can do with all of those guys.

On holding UNC to a field goal after the early fumble…

I felt like we were nervous on both sides of the ball. We really wanted to win, and we really wanted to play well at home. I don’t think the guys really liked the team we were playing quite honestly. They really wanted to win the game. We played tight and nervous. I tried to relax them a little bit heading into the game. I don’t think I did a very good job of that because that was my overall feeling.

Once we settled down on both sides, we began to play better and really captured the momentum at the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter. Hendon was rolling. We had two drops on another drive which I thought was just the result of us being a little bit tight. We settled down, and I felt really, really good. Our defense settled down and our offense was finding a groove.

On Dalton Keene playing running back…

He’s been begging for it for three years. He played tailback in high school and was really productive and has some natural skill with that. I don’t think he actually cares about scoring. I think he just wants to run somebody over. I showed the team, and that’s exactly what I said. I don’t think he cares about getting in the end zone, he just wants to inflict punishment on other people.

He was crushed, and everybody was crushed, when the ball was on the ground. There’s not a more dedicated, tough, hard-nosed football player on our team than Dalton Keene. He’s serving several roles. With him and Quincy back there, you have a tight end/running back with a quarterback/running back and you can do some different things. We can’t just have him sit back there and never touch the ball, so we started bringing him along a little bit behind the scenes in terms of carrying the ball and holding up in protections.

We’re not very big at running back and we need some size back there occasionally to hold up in protection or running the football. The good thing is that he’s so intelligent that he can handle all of that stuff. It’s never an issue with him learning what to do.

On Deshawn McClease…
I was really proud of him. Not just how he played, because we’re continuing to get better. The offensive line is improving, and Deshawn has been more efficient running the football. A biproduct of what happened is that Dalton ended up playing a little bit more because we were down to Quincy. It was pretty cool to see Deshawn handle it the way he handled it, which was supportive and never had any disappointment. When he was asked to go in there, he was ready and flying in there to go help us try to win the game.

On James Mitchell and Nick Gallo being used as blocking tight ends…

They held up well, but they have work to do. They’re still both younger players. I can’t find a way for Dalton to block and carry the ball at the same time, so somebody else has to carry that load. Those two young guys are continuing to get better. They already are weapons in the passing game. Both James and Nick are talented receivers. They have to continue to come along to create more value in the running game and the blocking part of it. They’re embracing that and did help pretty well against North Carolina.

On how the recruiting went this weekend…

We got fantastic feedback. I don’t know what else they want. It was a great example of not just our program, but a sample of school pride and Virginia Tech. Lane Stadium in the fall is a great place, but to me, it’s a microcosm of the entire place and the support you have after you graduate. There are a lot of people that have a lot of fond memories of Virginia Tech, and in turn down the road they look to help other graduates of Virginia Tech.

The recruits that were there were obviously impressed that we won the game, they’re impressed with the youth we have, and they’re impressed with the direction of the program with the facilities that are being built, and the atmosphere of the game. Overall, it was pretty much a spectacular weekend.

On the performance of the defensive tackles…

We went into the game without DaShawn [Crawford], and Jarrod has just been a force for us in the middle. He’s a great leader and a great worker and is becoming an even better player. We have two freshmen working in there. Norell [Pollard] had some great statistics. We talked today, and he doesn’t lack for confidence. He got in the backfield several times and is a quick player.

Mario Kendricks also played well as a freshman down there. He didn’t have the statistics, but sometimes as a defensive tackle, you can play really well and not get a lot of statistics. Then, there’s the return of Jaden Cunningham, who played a few snaps and really gives us some size that we have not had really since I’ve been here. We’ve been really small down there, particularly at defensive tackle. Jaden has missed the whole season with a foot injury, and he got in there too. That group was really productive, and we’re going to need them. We’re going to get DaShawn back and continue to rotate those guys through.

On Austin Cannon…

I don’t know if there is a better teammate on the team. In terms of a guy that is going to do whatever it takes to help this football team or help his teammates have success. He has earned an opportunity to play. We had an injury with Lecitus Smith, but he earned that opportunity, not just over the past week, but over the last several years. When he got his chance, he was productive. It was his kind of game. They were a big, strong defensive line, and he is a big, strong human being. He more than held his own on the inside.

On managing the players’ emotions after a game like that…

I think the important thing is, we shouldn’t gloss over things because we won. That was part of our meeting last night. Yes, there are some great performances here that we should be celebrating, but there’s also these things that we have to fix. Some of them are collective things, and some are individual things. We have to do a better job of going about it in these areas. We’re not going to ignore them just because we won the football game.

Some of those guys that obviously wish they had played better have to be prepared. You’ve got to be prepared for your opportunity. It’s so easy to get prepared when you know you’re starting. I’m talking about playing any position, but when you don’t know if you’re going to play, it’s very difficult to prepare week-in and week-out. We had some guys that did a really good job, but some guys who we have to bring along.

On Devon Hunter…

I was really proud of him. It was an opportunity well-earned. He’s earned a chance to continue to rotate in there. He’s another guy that hasn’t been distracted by the hype and the unfair expectations that were placed on him at a young age. He’s just continued to sacrifice for the team and show up every day. When his opportunity came, he was there and played really well.

On playing without Reggie Floyd…

It’s kind of like when you change quarterbacks out, or an unforeseen injury. It’s everyone else’s job to raise their level of play. It’s like when Quincy went in there, I challenged the offensive guys to raise their level. Don’t stare at the guy who just got thrown into the game and hasn’t played at all. Some of you guys have been playing for years, so raise your level of play. It allows guys to get more comfortable in leadership roles. Not just Devon playing the boundary safety position, but other guys in leadership roles so they feel more empowered to speak up.

On the offensive line…

We were down one starter. The guys continued to improve. They’re working hard, and we’re playing two true freshmen, two sophomores and another redshirt-freshman. Austin Cannon is the oldest player playing on the offensive line, and he’s a former walk-on player that earned a scholarship this year. The future is bright for those guys if we can continue to get them to focus on improvement. They have made huge strides.

We have a true freshman playing center, and he played a great nose tackle against North Carolina. That kid is a great player. Two weeks ago, he played two great defensive tackles. Both the schemes were completely opposite. At Miami, the tackles were trying to get across the line of scrimmage as quick as possible. North Carolina was trying to play at the line of scrimmage and control them. The freshman center held up in both opportunities. That’s a pretty amazing individual that can go out there and do that. He had never played center before two weeks into fall camp. Bryan Hudson is a special one. The guys around him are starting to gain confidence and improve.

On the bye week schedule…

We have our traditional bye week schedule, and we’ll lighten the load on them a little bit tomorrow. We’ll give them a little on Tuesday. We’ll practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, with a pretty light practice tomorrow. We have those GPS trackers on them, and some of those guys logged over 12,000 yards in the game. The stress levels were pretty hard in terms of their output. It was pretty taxing on a number of our guys.

We had them run and lift a little on Sunday just so they could try and feel better. Today, they were off and tomorrow we’ll have a light one. Then, we’ll get going by Wednesday and Thursday. There will still be some guys that won’t do much. The Rayshard Ashbys and Dalton Keenes won’t get a lot this week.

On Rayshard Ashby…

He is a unique football player. I have never in my life been around a guy with as good vision on the field as him. It’s hard to describe. With all of those bodies inside the box, he seems to be able to anticipate movement and feel where he’s going to fit in. He gets guys on the ground too, he’s a good tackler.

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27 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I would say having your tp two QBs ready to play is expected. Having your #3 QB ready to play at the level Quincy played at Saturday is a step above.

  2. Good article and thanks for providing this since I missed listening last night. I wish the question had been asked because I haven’t heard why we took a knee at halftime instead of trying a Hail Mary to the endzone with .02 seconds on the clock (i.e. Miami).

  3. I know it sounds repetitive, but we are very very young. And, we need to give Fu some time to get his act together on the recruiting scene. There is a lot of negativity used against us on the recruiting trail.

  4. The heads of some of our fans will explode when they read, “Having three QBs ready to go says a lot of the job Brad is doing.”

  5. I’ve never been an offensive coordinator. Never even been a coach. Just a former player and lifelong fan. So feel free to accuse me of commenting out of ignorance. HOWEVER: Is it really an “incredible” achievement by Corny to know his three QBs and what they’re capable of? And to be able to call plays and formations that play to those strengths? Isn’t this his full-time job? Isn’t any O coordinator in America able to know his QBs and how to use them? Yes, making changes on the fly is tough on everybody, but is really an “incredible” feat? Here is Fu’s quote: “For him to continue to put all three of those guys in good situations throughout the day was incredible.” When Fu compliments his players, he so often uses “pretty well” and “pretty good,” and it seems like it almost hurts him to hand out compliments. But when a veteran coach does his job, it’s incredible?

    1. In the stress of the game I think it’s a pretty big accomplishment and hard to predict reactions. Ultimately it comes down to execution and the QB’s executed.

    2. YES, it IS incredible that our third string QB with NO meaningful snaps comes in and drops dimes, runs people over etc etc…. Who do you think PREPARED QP behind the scenes for that?

    3. In defense of DW, not a mention by FU of the impact of having Hazelton healthy again as well as Turner back to up the predictability of the completions.

    4. Think back to your playing days (I am assuming high school). Most teams will have backups whose skillset pretty much matches that of the starter, maybe rawer and not as developed but they will all be somewhat in the same ballpark as far as what they do well. In high school, rarely it is passing, but sometimes it is.

      We have three QB’s that are quite different. I think this is what makes it very difficult to rep them in practice and to prepare, not only the QB, but the team for any of the three to be in the game. A running QB is so much different for the O-Line to deal with than a pocket passer.

      Anyway, I think Fuente did oversell it a little. But I’ll guarantee you that some donors rather high up the food chain were calling for “changes” with Cornelson and that info didn’t escape Fuente’s ear.

      Also – when you coach a teenager (which I have had the pleasure to do), you have to be measured in your praise and your criticism, especially when you are addressing it to others (in this case – the media). Too much of either can throw the player all sorts of whack-a-do.

    5. How many OCs have have played 3 QBs in meaningful and stressful minutes this year ??? Very few – so yes it is an incredibly good job. Stop with the Fu / Corny hate long enough to enjoy this win please.

    6. Scott Loeffler was actually really bad at prepping our backup QBs…and I actually liked Lefty. But no…its rare to have three QBs that are ready to go. Sorry but you are finding reasons to be mad about something that is evidence of good coaching. Dang….i have an Aston, a Ferrari, and a Bentley in my driveway. Sounds like reason to be happy to me!

    7. How many times have you seen coaches try to pound square pegs to into round holes, so to speak? Too many I’m sure. Cornelson did not do that. Good for him…and team.

    8. Fu is aware of the negativity of some of our fans and wants to point out that Corny IS doing a good job. Evidently you don’t and that is fine. I’ve rarely known a fan base that didn’t think their OC sucked. I personally think its great that Fu has his employees back. Wouldn’t you like a boss like that??

    9. It’s labelled “incredible” to counter the heat that the OC has taken earlier in the year.

      And he’s so incredible, why did it take him 5 games to put in a QB who could run an RPO offense when it was painfully obvious to everyone that Willis couldn’t do it?

    10. He may have been a bit effusive in his “incredible” praise of Corny, but I do believe that Corny did a great job in having all 3 QBs in a position to be prepared to play prior to the game, especially QP and then making appropriate play calls to take advantage of their capabilities.
      I’ll be the 1st to state that I don’t think our offense has been well prepared to play during the 1st half of this year and that Fu and Corny need to take responsibility with a consideration of our extreme youth. I believe bringing in Kill is no coincidence in the improvement. Kudos to Fu to accepting responsibility (read some of the previous Tech Talk Live notes), improvement from our young guys gaining experience and our coaches evidently making some changes based on feedback.
      However, I’m going to disagree with your comment that it hurts Fu to hand out compliments to players. Maybe you need to re-read his comments about Ashby, Cannon, Hudson, McClease, QP, Floyd, etc. in this article. Yes, he did compliment Mitchell & Gallo slightly but said they still have work to do……

  6. Thank you, Jake.

    Love this quote describing rambo: “he just wants to inflict punishment on other people.”

    We get a bunch with that attitude, we be rolling. Soft that ain’t

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