Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente addressed reporters on Monday morning after the Hokies’ gut-wrenching loss to Notre Dame and provided an injury update for Tech’s two quarterbacks.
Starter Braxton Burmeister “should be a full-go” this week, according to Fuente, while backup Connor Blumrick is “out indefinitely.”
“Everything I’ve heard is that he [Braxton Burmeister] will be good to go this week,” Fuente said. As for Blumrick, Fuente guesses that “he’ll be back at some point this year.”
Burmeister left the game with 3:17 to play in the third quarter after taking a shot on a five-yard rush on third and ten.
This was the play Burmeister was injured on against Notre Dame – a five-yard scramble on third and five in the third quarter.
"I landed on my shoulder weird and my arm kind of went numb, so I was just kind of dealing with the numbness," Burmeister said after the game.#Hokies https://t.co/pp36nUXris pic.twitter.com/MJ78HsfxlN
— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) October 11, 2021
Blumrick entered the game in his stay and played two drives. The Hokies punted on the first one, and Blumrick played the first six snaps of the second one before leaving the game with an injury on a second-and-six scramble.
Here's the play backup QB Connor Blumrick got injured on – a no-gain scramble on 2nd & 6 in the fourth quarter.
— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) October 11, 2021
Burmeister came back in to finish the game and actually scored on a 19-yard touchdown run to cap off the drive that Blumrick started. He was holding his right shoulder as he jogged back to the sidelines after the score, and postgame, Burmeister said his right arm was numb.
“I landed on my shoulder weird and my arm kind of went numb, so I was just kind of dealing with the numbness,” Burmeister said. “I was just dealing with the numbness. As soon as I got the numbness good, I was ready to go back in.”
Burmeister finished the game with 15 completions on 30 attempts and one interception. He threw for 184 yards and was Virginia Tech’s leading rusher with 49 yards and a touchdown. Blumrick rushed for 29 yards and completed two of his four passes for three yards.
Two-Point Conversion Dilemma
Up 22-21 after Jermaine Waller’s pick six with 50 seconds to play in the third quarter, Fuente & Co. opted to go for a two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point.
On the first attempt from the three-yard line, tight end Nick Gallo was called for a false start. That backed up Tech to the eight, but Fuente still decided to go for it.
The Hokies didn’t get it, as Blumrick threw an interception to Notre Dame linebacker Bo Bauer, keeping it a one-point game. On Monday, Fuente said if he could go back and do it again, he would’ve opted to kick the extra point there.
“The boiled down version is if you’re up by one in the fourth quarter, you go for two,” Fuente said. “We weren’t actually in the fourth quarter, but there was 23 seconds or whatever it was in the third. If I had to do it over again, I would’ve put the field goal unit on after we jumped offsides.
“I kind of got my pride and my piss off-edness got in the way of making a good decision there, and I hurt the football team, and it hurts me bad. It bothers me a lot.”
Instead of it being a two-point game, 23-21, it was a one-point difference. After Burmeister scampered into the end zone on his 19-yard score, it was an eight-point game. Had Fuente kicked it, it would’ve been nine and the Irish would’ve needed another score. But the touchdown with 2:26 to play and the ensuing two-point conversion tied the score at 29.
From there, Jonathan Doerer kicked a 48-yard field goal to seal the Irish victory.
Dax Hollifield’s Targeting Call And Changing The Rule
Much of the discussion during Monday’s press conference centered around targeting. Tech linebacker Dax Hollifield was ejected late in the fourth quarter, forcing the Hokies to play without their defensive captain.
“It was so fast and a bang-bang play,” Fuente said. “I’m not sure if there’s anything Dax could’ve done to hit the guy low, but he was going to defend the pass. It’s a call in college football we’re all going to have to live with.”
Ironically, it was Hollifield that mentioned targeting to the media after the Richmond game. Here’s his full quote to a question from Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times:
“To be honest, it scares you nowadays,” Hollifield said. “If you have a big hit nowadays, you’re more worried about if you’re going to get thrown out of the game. That’s really what goes through my mind and a lot of players’ minds nowadays, and I don’t really think that’s how football should be played, but it was a great hit. It also goes with fundamentals. We’ve been working a lot on tackling and the fundamentals of the game. Getting your head across, your eyes up, working on that, and it shows on the field.
“I look for the laundry and then go, ‘we’re good, we’re good. You’ve seen it. The Auburn-Penn St. game, Zakoby McClain, that was heartbreaking. There’s not much you can really do about anything anymore. You really just have to be a fundamental tackler and really just trust in that.”
It’s a topic that Fuente spent a lot of time talking about, and he said he’s all for making the penalty similar to basketball with two levels: flagrant one and flagrant two. One would be a 15-yard penalty with the other a 15-yard penalty and ejection.
“I don’t think anyone wants to appear to go backward in player safety,” Fuente stated.
He said it’s something he’s advocated for when meeting with representatives from the ACC and other head coaches in the league. Acknowledging that the rule was created for player safety and to limit the really dirty hits out there, he said he didn’t think Hollifield’s play fell into that group.
As for how the Hokies replace Hollifield, Fuente said he’s not sure about whether redshirt freshman Dean Ferguson or redshirt junior Keshon Artis will start at mike linebacker in his absence. He described Artis as a swing guy who can play both spots if needed, helping out Alan Tisdale at backer, too. In the Notre Dame game, Ferguson was the one who replaced Hollifield at mike.
- Fuente said true freshman quarterback Tahj Bullock has been getting really good work on the scout team. “I’ve been really pleased with how he’s improved.” Said he’s not game-ready, though, and wouldn’t be ready to go if the Hokies needed him due to injuries in the QB room.
- On the Pitt offense and Kenny Pickett: “This offense we’re playing this week is pretty special,” Fuente said. “This is the best quarterback we’ve played so far and the best quarterback we’ll probably play all year. … He’s experienced, he’s hard to sack, has a great arm and great anticipation. … They’re as hot as anybody in America.”
- Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi’s comments on Virginia Tech: “What I see on tape, they love to run the football. They love to run it against us as well, especially when we get into our three-down stuff. … When you look at what you saw against Notre Dame, they like to run the quarterbacks. They got two quarterbacks banged up. Burmeister will be ready to go. Came back in the game, looked like he hurt his funny bone. Didn’t look like it affected him much. So he’ll be back. We expect to see him.”
- Virginia Tech’s game against Syracuse on Saturday, Oct. 23 is a 12:30 p.m. ET kickoff from Lane Stadium on RSN (regional sports networks).