Tech Talk Live Notes: Recapping Wake And Looking Ahead To Louisville

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Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente was disappointed in certain aspects of Virginia Tech’s loss to Wake Forest. (Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports)

On the Wake Forest game…

Quite honestly, we played better on defense than we did against Boston College after watching film and talking about things. We had a missed fit early in the game by a really young player in a big personnel group. Assignment-wise and technique-wise, we did better than we did against Boston College, but we didn’t create big turnovers. There were plenty of opportunities out there.

Conversely, on the offensive side, if you look at the numbers, we ran the ball fine. We weren’t dominant, but fine. We threw the ball for yards, but what we didn’t do is convert in the red zone, which we’ve been really good at, and we turned the ball over three times. There lies the problem. If you get into the game and you attempt five field goals, have two big negative plays in the red zone and you find yourself in a really close battle, you would love to find a way to win the game and teach off of a win. That did not happen.

I don’t ever want to be the guy that takes credit away from the team that does a good job. I don’t want to be that way, but certainly there are plenty of things that we need to improve on. We’re still not making any plays in the punt return game at all. We are a threat on kickoff return in special teams, and we seem to be covering punts fairly well, and converted a fake. We did some good things across the board, but not a complete game by any means. 

On the team’s mood heading into the game…

First of all, it’s never a one-to-one relationship. You can have average weeks of practice and play really well. Sometimes, your guys are just out of sync at practice. Other times, you have a great week of practice and get smashed on Saturday. To give yourself the best chance to have success, you have to prepare a certain way. There were certainly times when I brought the group up and addressed those things that I felt we were lacking heading into the game. If you turn the film on, we played hard, but the execution level wasn’t there that had been there in some areas of the game. 

On Sunday’s practice…

Our guys were great. In our team meeting, we talked about some of the discipline things that I was disappointed in and are not indicative of the way we should play football or have played football. We addressed those things, and we talked about the guys that didn’t play in the game, I wasn’t pleased with them either. I’m not just upset about the guys that went out there and played 80 to 100 snaps. They laid it on the line, we could have played better, but they laid it on the line.

The guys who didn’t play, I wasn’t happy with them either. In a very frank, direct way, we talked about those things and went out and had a great practice. We hadn’t practiced the last two Sundays. I missed Sunday practice because whether you win or lose, you turn the page. It’s like taking a shower, you cleanse yourself of the previous game. We didn’t practice last week because we had an 8:00 game the night before and then the week before, we hardly had anybody left to actually go practice. We hadn’t done it in a few weeks, the guys went out and had a great day of work yesterday. 

On Jarrod Hewitt’s targeting call…

It’s darn near impossible to play defense now. They have moved the definition of the crown of the helmet from the top of the helmet to what we were taught when we were kids to hit them with the screws of your helmet. We were taught to tackle face up. Your brow is considered the top of your helmet, and I think that’s what they got Jarrod for.

To be honest with you, I don’t know what to tell him. He’s hustling his tail off across the field. I knew what to tell him after the targeting play [the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty], that 15 yards that we picked up there is inexcusable. I have a hard time being too critical of that play with the way things are being officiated right now.

Divine’s was not called. Everybody was holding their breath. Anytime anyone hits the ground, we’re all holding our breath because we don’t know what’s going to happen. Divine’s was incredibly face up, he never lowered his head and the quarterback ran right at him. Every time a guy goes down and rolls around on the ground, everybody feels obligated to jump in there. I wish I could give you a more astute description of that. At one time, I considered myself an expert on exactly how all of that stuff was going to be officiated, but I still get surprised every Saturday. 

On the passing game…

We have to find a way to make some big plays. It’s going to be tight, one-on-one coverage, we have to find some ways to get separation and get the ball down the field. We also need to find a way to get some easier completions where Hendon [Hooker] doesn’t have to stand in the pocket for a long, long time. We just didn’t do that very effectively. If you look at the stats, they’ll tell you that we ran for however many yards, but on first down, that’s an attacking down, let’s go make them pay, and we haven’t been able to create some of those plays.

We hit Tre on the big over route that was a big play, but there haven’t been enough of those. We need to make a concerted effort because we are running the ball well, like we didn’t run up and down the field like we did the other weeks, but that’s not going to happen all of the time. We know that coming in. I’d love for it to happen because then you don’t have to worry about anything. You just hand it off and go celebrate. As teams continue to scout, look and tweak things, you need to still be able to run the football, which we will, but I don’t know that we’ll not have to throw it and be productive. We weren’t as effective or efficient this week as we were last week. Last week, we were 11 of 15 for less yards, but we were much more efficient throwing the ball. 

On Hooker’s interceptions…

I will say, the thing there before the half, we had a field goal in our pocket, and we practice these situations all of the time. Hendon knew the situation; it wasn’t a mental error. I felt like we had one more shot to get the ball in the end zone, and we still had saved our timeout. If we got tackled in bounds or something bad happened, we could still get our field goal unit onto the field to kick a leisurely field goal, so I felt great about everything. I just wanted to take one more chance in there to put the ball in the end zone.

The guy had tight coverage on him, and Hendon was going to the right place with the ball, but it was a little high and got tipped and intercepted. That was three points that vanished. I was proud of how we responded after that. That was a disappointing event, no doubt. I was still proud of what I was seeing and hearing in the locker room and how we approached the second half after that event. It was kind of a bummer, but I liked the way our guys responded.

Then, he might have pressed a little bit. He did seem a little bit off. Everybody talks about the interception; one was a tipped ball; one was desperation mode and one was a poor read. He made a poor decision and a poor throw. There are some other plays in there that we were accustomed to him making all of the time. He’s throwing it out into cushion for Tayvion into the boundary. He makes that throw ten times out of ten, and maybe we take it for granted. He throws the ball here on naked and never misses, so we take it for granted. When a guy is off a little bit, we wonder man, what the heck, but sometimes, he’s just a little off. 

On Tre Turner…

The biggest problem is that Tre hasn’t been able to practice very much. That’s been the issue for Tre as we go through this deal. There’s so many young guys that we want to develop that have been out, with Elijah Bowick and Darryle Simmons and Jaden Payoute. Those are young guys that we’ve been excited about that have been totally out. Then, you have some vets that you really feel like are really good players, but they’ve been missing time.

Tre didn’t practice most of last week. We made a concerted effort two weeks ago [the BC game] to try and get Tre rolling a little bit, and he plays about four snaps and then is out. We just haven’t gotten him going. The defenses haven’t done much different for him. They’ve been centered on trying to stop the run. We’re getting one-on-one matchups on the outside, but we have to get more consistency and efficiency with those things. 

On Rayshard Ashby…

He’s over there getting his face stitched up. I asked him, ‘How may stitches?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ He wasn’t counting. The trainer told me it was six stitches and I said, ‘Six stitches worth of improvement over there.’ He said, ‘No, it doesn’t make me look any better.’ He’s just a stud. He gets everybody lined up, he’s like an air-traffic controller over there just directing traffic with the front and the linebackers. He’s just a throwback football player, somebody who could’ve played in any era. 

On Alan Tisdale…

He’s just in a great spot physically and mentally. Part of what kept him off wasn’t talent, it was just a devotion to the craft. I think Coach Claeys deserves a tremendous amount of credit for having those types of conversations with Alan. Alan had to put more into this from a mental standpoint to help with what we’re trying to get accomplished, because it’s a little bit different from what you’ve been taught before. It took a little extra work, but it’s really paid off. He’s in a good place and he’s doing a really good job. He’s obviously really athletic and can run sideline to sideline. He’s figuring it out a little bit on the run, but he’s in a really good spot mentally right now. 

On Devin Taylor…

He’s doing a really good job. We just moved him to safety, and hopefully we get some consistency there and can leave him there while we continue to bring Jermaine [Waller] back at corner. Again, I am optimistic that’s going to happen. I know he desperately wants to be back, and we can maybe rotate some guys there and start to get a little work at safety and create some depth there to get us through this run. 

On Dorian Strong…

He’s awesome. He’s just so much fun to see every single day. He has such a great outlook. He’s a kid that we saw at camp and I thought, we have to have this guy. This guy had no offers and had very little film, he had been a track guy. He comes out to camp and is covering everybody, running around with a smile on his face. He ran really fast. We find out about him, he’s a great kid.

Jafar Williams knew the high school coach, and we find out that he has a fantastic family. I said, ‘We’re going to offer you a scholarship.’ He said, ‘I’m going to commit.’ I told him, ‘Well, you need to play well this year.’ He goes out and has a great year, plays really well and shows up here and COVID hits, he turns around and now he’s the starting corner. He’s out there playing; he’ll give up a play or two and get up and play the next play. He’s playing well on special teams. We need to get him in the weight room, but with an offseason and another year to develop, what a pleasure to be around, and I think he has a really bright future. 

On COVID-19…

I want to be so careful not to sound like a whiny baby, but it’s hard. We get tested three times a week. Just take me, for example, three times a week, I don’t know if I’m going to pass the test or not. We have people that don’t pass the test that feel the same that they do every other day of life, so I just don’t know.

There is a level of anxiety with that whether you’re the head coach, offensive coordinator, equipment manager, head trainer or the strength coach. Whatever you are, there’s anxiety with the fact that you may get tapped on the shoulder. Three separate times a week, you may get tapped on the shoulder and get told that you can’t go to work anymore. That’s hard. We love our job and these kids, and we enjoy what we’re doing.

Imagine being a college student and a player. Obviously, some of our kids have had it and they’re not getting test now. You have 120 days after a positive test, so they’re in the clear for 120 days. We still have a bunch of people getting tested every single week, so that weighs on you certainly.  You’re trying to figure out what it’s going to look like if you’re missing this person or that person or who has to room together, so you don’t get contact traced. It never stops, and never gets off of you. It’s just an ongoing, ever-present situation. We’re not the only ones dealing with it. People are dealing with it all across the world, and I get that part of it. We’re no different or more special than anybody else, but we’re trying to play a college football season in the middle of all of that.

I am going to trim down [the roster] this week, but not because we’re flying. We’re only taking what we need, we’re trimming the fat. We’re not taking any extra. You have to be careful because you could be in Louisville, KY and you lose two guys and you left two of the guys at that position at home and you can’t get them there in time for the game, so we have to be a little bit careful with that. We travel bigger than we usually do because they’ve loosened the restrictions, and because we’re scared that we’re going to lose one position on gameday morning. We’ll trim it down a little bit and hopefully be ready to roll. 

On having never played Louisville as an ACC opponent…

I just think it’s an unfortunate biproduct of the scheduling model that we have. In perfect candor, I do understand that each school is different, and they have rivalries, and some rivalries are in your division like ours is and some are not. Some are in other leagues like Clemson and South Carolina. It’s just unfortunate that we are in a league and we can’t figure out a way to see our current members on a more frequent basis.

One thing people say is play more league games which, the one thing I would caution with that is, the best way to raise the profile of the league is to beat teams from other leagues. That’s the way to continue to raise the profile of our league on a national level is to play and defeat teams from the other leagues. I don’t think we should lose sight of that. Playing just your league or nine or ten conference games, I know this year is an exception, but doing that every single year, I think there should be some intrigue and matchups like our Penn State series.

On Louisville’s offense…

They have speed, speed, speed; they can really run and stretch the defense. Their wideout [Atwell] might have led the ACC in receiving last year if I’m not mistaken. Whatever it is, he’s put up great numbers, deservedly so.

It starts with the running game though. They’re going to run the outside zone. We’ve been really good at running the outside zone this year. They run it different than we do and really force it around the edge, they’re really good at it. They also run the inside zone. That’s the beginning of what they do. They run everything off of that. They run their quarterback some, he can throw the ball. They can push the tempo and also take their foot off of the gas and slow the game down. They use different formations and fly sweeps and motions. They really use their personnel well, and they have some exceptional personnel to play with.

On Javian Hawkins…

I would’ve guessed he had 280 yards after watching the film against Florida State. He just has a great feel. You’ll see it when he’s on the field. When they run the stretch, he is hitting it a million miles per hour. It’s not necessarily cutting back as it is cutting up. He’s running at a 45-degree angle towards the line of scrimmage at full speed, and as that line of scrimmage stretches, he just puts his foot in the ground and goes north and south as good as anybody that I’ve seen. He doesn’t pitter-patter in the hole either, when he makes a decision, he goes, and he can hit the accelerator and take it to the house.

On Louisville’s defense…

Brian Brown is a heck of a football coach. He’ll have those guys ready to go. They’re basically three down, four linebackers and four defensive backs. They’re going to bring pressure from the edges, from the field and from the boundary, on a pretty consistent basis. I would imagine they’ll get down and challenge us in the run game because they know that we want to find a way to run the football.

Their nose guard is a 6’6”, 290- pound nose guard that can play both gaps. They create a lot of problems, so you have to be pretty sound and thorough in your thought process with what you’re trying to accomplish, or you can end up with people in the backfield a whole lot against these guys.

On Louisville losing four in a row…

I don’t want to discredit anybody that beat them, but they hit a slide there in the Georgia Tech game where they gave up a third-and-19 from the 19 for a touchdown. [Georgia Tech] hit a little angle route and scored and that really sucked the life out of them in what was a close game. In the Miami game, they gave up two huge plays, actually they had three busts for 21 points where they messed something up and turned a guy loose. Other than that, they were beating them, so this is a team that has made a couple of mistakes that have really hurt them. They lost a really close game with Pitt at Pitt; we know what that can be like and how hard that is. They’re super talented and much better than their record, I can promise you that. 

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4 Responses You are logged in as Test

    1. We ran for 210 yards and averaged almost 5 yards a carry. How is that not “fine”? It wasn’t the 300 yards we’ve been putting up but it wasn’t like we averaged 1-2 yards per carry or were held to under 100 yards total rushing. This is a great example of people being overly critical of Fuente. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with his statement.

      1. You’re absolutely right on that. Herbert had a 20-30 yard run that was called back on a holding penalty that would have put him right at 100 yds. Running game or lack thereof, did not cost us the game.

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