Post-Game Quotes and Video: Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh

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Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente

Opening Statement

(Long pause) That was a tough one. Congratulations to Pitt. I’m disappointed we didn’t get more stops and I’m disappointed we couldn’t convert on third-and-short and fourth-and-short. I felt like after the first quarter, we got into a little bit of a rhythm offensively. I felt pretty good, but then in the second half we had the one turnover and we couldn’t get things into the end zone and couldn’t score points.

Defensively, we had a hard time getting pressure on the quarterback. I felt like he was getting the ball out so fast that we didn’t have much of a chance to get pressure. In the second half, when he held the ball, we still didn’t get much pressure. I know we’re down a lot of guys and all that stuff, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get first downs on fourth-and-one or score on fourth-and-goal from the one. We need to play better.

On what he says to the team after this loss…

Our guys have been great. I don’t know that anybody understands how hard all of this is. This has been brutal. I’m not talking about the last three weeks, it’s all of this from July to back in the spring. The guys are incredibly resilient. They’d like to play better and get better results. We had two weeks in a row where we played pretty well and had gut-wrenching losses. This week, we got our butts kicked. They care about each other and they care about Virginia Tech. They want to do better.

We’ll take a little time, we’ll practice with some of the guys who haven’t gotten much. The older guys that get the reps, they need rest and a break. They’ve been going at it since July because we haven’t had an off week or anything.  I know our first game was postponed, but that certainly wasn’t a bye week. Those guys will get some rest and we’ll rep some other guys as we get ready for the stretch run. I’m not worried about that. We have to find ways to play better and get over the hump.

On the passing game…

The next person [after Tre Turner] is James [Mitchell] and Tayvion [Robinson]. This is where we’re at. They’re not going to lineup in cushion unless you throw a quick out into the boundary. They’ll lineup in press and try and strangle you at the line of scrimmage, so you have to have guys that can go get it. We’re still trying to bring those other guys along, but we lost Kaleb [Smith] too. He’s the other guy that’s been playing really well for us. Now, you’re down Tre and Kaleb and you lost a guy or two during fall camp. Darryle Simmons has been sick and Elijah Bowick has been out. There’s a big hole there from those young guys that have been developing and they’re just out. When I say they’re out, they’re not even with us. We didn’t travel that many guys to begin with.

On giving cushion at cornerback…

Armani [Chatman] is out there playing beat up and we’re out there playing two non-scholarship corners. We’re pretty thin, so you have to find ways to find ways to protect those guys and mix up your opportunities for them to be left in exposed positions. They played their tails off, I don’t want this to be interpreted as me saying anything about them or the way they played, but we kept trying to mix those looks in because we don’t have very many people left.

On running the ball on third and fourth down…

I don’t know. Are you saying we need to drop back and throw the ball on third-and-eight on the plus-40? What do you mean? On fourth-and-one, [quarterback power] is a play we’ve been running for four years and it’s worked pretty good for us. It worked pretty good every time we’ve run it through the history of time for us. Tonight, we got stuffed. I guess it would be easy to say we should’ve called something else. When you’ve got a whole log of that play being successful in short yardage situations, it’s pretty hard to go away from it. Versus Miami, it was third-and-eight and we called the inside zone versus cover two and our right guard got his ass whooped by the three technique. That’s how it goes sometimes when you play good people. Then, it’s fourth-and-seven. The philosophy is that we’re going to take two downs to get a first down as opposed to trying to kick a 57-yard field goal. It’s a pretty common philosophy across college football.

On the struggles trying to blitz Kenny Pickett…

We were trying to get him off of his spot. I thought when we did pressure him to some degree, he ran around us and we couldn’t get him in too many negative plays. That hurt us. The few times that we were free, we couldn’t get him on the ground. When they did pick it up, he made us pay.

On taking over play calling…

No. That’s the most ludicrous crap that I’ve ever heard. Next question.

On the secondary…

I don’t know if you all know this, but we do give them a bunch of looks in the backend. There are a bunch of different looks for the quarterback, but eventually, you have to be able to cover and tackle. When they’re putting a formation into the boundary and we’re playing man free and they’re throwing a bubble into the boundary and getting twelve yards because we’re not getting the guy on the ground. You can adjust that all you want, but we have to do a better job executing the call and a better job of teaching the call, so that those things don’t happen. As far as adjusting coverage and trying to protect various places on the field, that’s at the forefront of what we’re trying to get accomplished.

On his message to fans…

I’m sure people are upset, but we’re playing football in the middle of a pandemic. These are the most extraordinary of circumstances you’ve ever seen. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys and how they’ve hung in there through the entire thing. Do we expect to play and win? Yes, absolutely, but the notion that it’s something terrible and wrong is just ridiculous. I don’t think anybody has any concept of what these kids’ lives are like every single day. Should we still play better? Sure, absolutely, but let’s take things with a little bit of context here. We’re going to keep fighting and battling our tails off and doing right by our players and our staff and doing the best job that we can do.

On trying to bounce back after a blowout…

That’s probably a fair question, but we’re heading into a bye week. I think it’s fair to say these guys are a little tired. They’ve been dealing with this since July and they were at home with no real offseason. My point is that the focus for us right now is that we have to get healthy. There are three or four guys off of the top of my head that didn’t practice all week that went out there and laid it out on the line. So, we have to get healthy and kind of get our arms right back wrapped around everything that’s happening and get ready for the stretch run. Nobody is happy or pleased with it, but we’ve got a little bit of time here to get some guys feeling better and take stock on who’s not going to be with us for the stretch run. We’ll see what we can do.

On Tre Turner’s success…

Tre didn’t play in the second half, so that’s why we didn’t throw him the ball. Hendon could’ve thrown it to Tayvion or Tre on the first touchdown. Tre was the first part of his read, but Tayvion was wide open too. When Tre was out there, he made plays all over the place, but he didn’t play in the second half.

On Khalil Herbert’s health…

He was fine health-wise.

On Christian Darrisaw…

It was something specific, a specific injury. It was one of those deals where he’ll get out there and warm up and see if he can go. He hadn’t practiced, but we had two or three other guys out there that hadn’t practiced and ended up playing with different ailments. There were several guys out there in warm-ups trying to see if they were going to be able to play.

On players trying to play without practice…

Usually, the more experienced players can handle that. The guys that did that played fine. When it’s a young player, it’s pretty difficult, but it’s a little bit difficult too as well when you’re not sure who’s going to be healthy. That’s part of football. When you play nine straight weeks, you’re going to end up like that. That’s just part of it. We deal with it all the time.

Virginia Tech Wide Receiver Tre Turner
(Virginia Tech Athletics)

Virginia Tech Wide Receiver Tre Turner

On why he couldn’t return for the second half…

I don’t really know. I wish I could answer, but I don’t really know.

On the offense’s struggles…

I don’t know. I don’t know what the issues are.

On the mood of the team…

We still want to win games. We’re still a hungry team in my eyes and we’re going to fight regardless. The team that I know is still going to fight.

On his second touchdown…

It was a pretty high ball, so I jumped, and I caught it. I don’t know what I landed on, but I landed on something and that’s when I got banged up. It was a cool catch; I knew I had to make a play. Whenever the ball comes my way, I know I have to make a play. I had a few drops tonight, so I knew I had to make up for it.

On the offense finding a rhythm at the end of the first half…

It did. When we start putting points on the board, we’re all on the sidelines saying that we need to keep it going and keep the juice flowing. It just didn’t keep going today. That’s life.

On the team’s recent struggles…

Personally, I was on the 2018 team and we lost four games in a row and we worked through it and won the last two. I’m not really worried about the losing streak. I just know that every game has nothing to do with the last week’s game. We’re going to go into this next week, we have a bye week and we’ll go into the next game completely focused on that game. You don’t think about a losing streak, you try to get wins. We’re not a team that’s going to give up on ourselves, we’re going to keep doing what we can do. The outcome is just the outcome.

Virginia Tech Defensive Tackle Jarrod Hewitt
(Virginia Tech Athletics)

Virginia Tech Defensive Tackle Jarrod Hewitt

On not getting pressure on Pickett…

It was very frustrating. They ran a lot of quick game; they used some max protect, but a lot of the time, the ball was just out in a couple of seconds. I give credit to Pitt for that because they had a great game plan and obviously, they executed. There were times that we weren’t getting off of the field when we needed to and other times when we did get good stops, but it just didn’t all come together.

On the 99-yard drive…

You have to have your offense’s back; we don’t blame them for anything. Things happen in this sport. Pitt has a great defense, but we have to come together in a time like this when most teams would fall apart.

On Pitt missing starters up front…

They used the quick game to limit the amount of time that they had to block us. Hats off to Pitt for executing their game plan.

On the second half struggles…

It was incredibly disappointing, knowing how hard we work and the amount of care that we have for each other as a team. It’s very frustrating. Obviously, we have time off for the bye week, so we’ll recharge, get back right and finish the right way.

On turning it around…

We’ve been in this exact same situation in 2018 when we came up here and didn’t play well. We lost the football game to Pitt and turned around and beat Virginia and kept the bowl streak going that year. You don’t want to be in this situation, but I’m very confident that we’ll come together and not further apart.

On the defense’s issues…

It’s a lot of the little things, here and there. I don’t think it’s just one direct problem. We’ll look at the film and try our best to correct it.

On the team’s mental exhaustion…

Early on, there was a lot of that. I think we definitely got over the hump in terms of handling COVID on our football team. Week-in and week-out, you hear about this team cancelling and this team cancelling. We hear all the way up until Thursday or Friday that they might cancel or might be playing. It can be frustrating, but as a leader, we have to block all of that out and get ready to play no matter what.

Virginia Tech Running Back Khalil Herbert
(Virginia Tech Athletics)

Virginia Tech Running Back Khalil Herbert

On bouncing back…

We have a much-needed bye week ahead of us and I think a lot of guys are banged up and their bodies are just tired. We’ll get this week to recuperate, but we’ll be ready to go for the next two.

On the offense’s struggles…

I don’t think we really hit a wall, but I think we have to execute better on fourth-and-shorts, especially in the red zone, those are plays we have to have. Getting those plays done and getting conversions is something that we have to continue to get better at.

On coming up short on the goal line…

Fourth-and-one there, you have to get that in. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. We have to get ready to work and go back to work. That’s something we have to have.

On his hamstring…

I feel 100%. The training staff and the strength staff did a great job getting me ready to go. It feels great.

On his back-to-back long runs…

The boys up front were able to get some push. I’m not sure why we couldn’t sustain it, but we’ll watch the film and hopefully be able to point that out.

Virginia Tech Quarterback Hendon Hooker
(Virginia Tech Athletics)

Virginia Tech Quarterback Hendon Hooker

On short-yardage situations…

The coaching staff does a great job preparing. Once we get past the 50, we’re looking towards four-down territory. We’re looking to gain a few yards and go for it again on fourth down. That aggressive mentality is a great mentality to have and we’re going to continue to do it.

On coming up short on fourth-and-goal…

It’s tough, but that’s part of the game of football. It happens.

On turning things around…

We’re just keeping a positive mindset and continuing to work hard. We’ve played nine consecutive weeks, so that factors in as well. We’re going to keep persevering forward and get better day-by-day.

On losing Turner…

He’s our number one guy, but we have other guys who can step up and make plays as well. Tayvion Robinson made some great plays today. Our running backs stepped up big today as well and made some plays. We just didn’t capitalize on the backend.

On the offense’s struggles…

It happens. If one person doesn’t do their job, everything is thrown off. If I don’t do my job, it can throw guys off. It’s football. We have to all click at the same time and get things rolling.

On trying to bounce back down the stretch…

I think we will. I think that time off is much needed because a lot of guys have been battling through injuries just to make an appearance on Saturday. I feel like this is going to reenergize us and get us going in the right direction.

On his message to fans…

If they’re real fans, they’ll be on our side win, lose or draw. Whoever is doubting us, they’re not true fans and they can kick rocks.

 

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4 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I am always on the teams side. I do doubt the coaching….. Fuente attitude reflected in Hooker. I would LOVE to hear what Fuente says about the fanbase out of the light.

  2. Hopefully time off this week will help in all areas for us to be competitive with clemson and beat uva, but as a fan I am concerned where we are as a program always support the players but coaches not so much after reading fu remarks, like I dont know why the o is struggling and why tre did not play second half, I th I’d his job to know these issues.

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