After Another Heartbreaker, Hokies Turn Attention To Yellow Jackets

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Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente wasn’t pleased with how the defense performed against Syracuse. (Jon Fleming)

On Monday, Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente addressed the media after the Hokies’ heartbreaking 41-36 loss to Syracuse. He addressed the frustration of being so close but coming up just short in multiple weeks, but said he believes in his team’s ability to keep its collective head up and turn it around.

“Three times, we’ve really failed to get over the hump,” Fuente said. “We ran the ball better than we’ve run it all year [vs. Syracuse]. … We played our worst game defensively.

Fuente said he certainly worries about the accumulation of losses, but feels good about his players and their mentality to turn this ship around. He praised the leadership of his group, specifically the captains and his older players, and how they’ve stepped up in tough moments.

“There are a lot of guys that can pound their chest and wave the pom-poms when winning, but losing is difficult. When you’re truly tested, it will reveal who you are.”

It’s the third time in Fuente’s tenure at Virginia Tech that the team has lost three consecutive games. In 2018, the Hokies lost four in a row, three at home. Last season, the same thing – four straight losses, three in Blacksburg.

Fuente’s seat continues to grow hotter. Sitting at 3-4 (1-2 ACC), Virginia Tech will try to get back on the right foot against Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Hokies’ first of four games on the road in their final five.

Offensive Line Moved The Pile vs. Syracuse

In the previous weeks, an extended effort has been made to get more of a push as an offensive line. The offensive players have preached running the ball more efficiently, starting with the big guys up front, and Virginia Tech did just that against Syracuse.

The Hokies had their best running game of the year against the Orange defense, a unit that was No. 2 in the ACC in total defense entering the weekend. Tech churned out 260 yards on the ground on 44 carries, equal to 5.9 yards per carry. That’s a season-high for both statistics.

Fuente listed three reasons for the offensive line’s solid performance on Saturday in the run game: taking advantage of what Syracuse gave them, Malachi Thomas’s spark and a solid day from the tight ends.

Malachi Thomas was a difference-maker offensively against Syracuse. (Jon Fleming)

“I thought it was a combination of several things,” Fuente said. “Syracuse is a movement-based defense that can often cause you to become passive, and I thought we kept our aggression, in terms of rolling off the ball. I thought Malachi was different in there, and then I thought our tight ends played well. I think it boils down to those three things, among several others.”

Thomas finished as Virginia Tech’s leading rusher with 21 carries for 151 yards and three touchdowns. He is the first true freshman in program history to rush for three scores in a game.

He had a 47-yard touchdown run that gave the Hokies a nine-point lead with 5:36 to play. If the Hokies can move Georgia Tech up front this week and Thomas can get a few creases, it might open up some other things offensively for Virginia Tech.

Facing Georgia Tech

Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech didn’t square off last year due to COVID-19, the first year the two programs didn’t meet since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004. Justin Fuente said this Georgia Tech team is “dramatically different” than it was the last time they squared off.

“[They’re] kind of into this 3-3-5 genre of defense that I think Virginia is playing some of,” Fuente said. “I think maybe Iowa State was one of the first teams that started to play it. They’ve changed it a little bit, so it’s a bit different from the last time we played them.

“They’re certainly not scared to bring pressure. That’ll be something that we’ll certainly have to be ready for.”

Geoff Collins and the Yellow Jackets are 3-4 overall, and 2-3 in the ACC. They’ve split their last four games – wins over UNC and Duke, losses to Pitt and UVa.

Justin Fuente and Geoff Collins haven’t squared off since the Hokies won 45-0 in Atlanta in 2019. (Ivan Morozov)

Georgia Tech ranks eighth in the ACC in total offense and tenth in total defense. GT’s offense is a bit more run-heavy, which might pose problems for a Hokie defense that struggled to stop the ground game vs. Syracuse.

There might be some ability to expose the Yellow Jackets’ defense, however. GT doesn’t generate many sacks (12th in ACC) or force turnovers (last in ACC). 

“Playing Virginia last week, everybody is unique from week-to-week, but they [UVa] make a concerted effort to throw the ball quite a bit, so as you can imagine, that probably changed Georgia Tech’s [defensive] approach a little bit.”

The Hokies have struggled to throw the ball for most of the season. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister was 10-for-20 against the Orange. But if VT can run the ball like it did vs. Syracuse, which completely changed the dynamic of the game, it might help the Hokies get back on the right foot in Atlanta.

Other Notes from Monday’s Press Conference:

  • Justin Fuente said cornerback Jermaine Waller (foot) is day-to-day. He started against Syracuse but left the game in the first quarter. He was injured in the first half vs. Pitt on Oct. 15.
  • On Tech’s defensive line, Fuente said losing Desmond Mamudi and Maxx Philpott to injury before the season really hurt that position’s depth. However, he’s pleased with Cole Nelson’s growth and how the other players at that position have rotated and split so many snaps.
  • Fuente said the Hokies weren’t in the right coverage on Syracuse’s game-winning touchdown on Saturday. “The biggest thing was that we were supposed to check the coverage. We were not in the coverage we wanted to be in.” Fuente said Tech was choosing its look based of off what the Orange did, but the players didn’t adjust properly.
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21 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Fuente is a good man. Just not working out. If he wants to save his job he needs to fire OC and win all games except Miami. If not it will be over. I do think we take a bigger step back with loss of players to portal before we get better.

  2. Notice how now we can’t watch VT play football on television (RSN only, which is horrible) all of the sudden. Will probably be the same thing for Georgia Tech game… That impacts recruiting, sponsorship, fans, etc. and people start losing any kind of enthusiasm. VT is no longer interesting or good therefore we’re no longer talked about on ESPN, Fox Sports, etc. except about Fuente being on the hot seat. Right now it’s a horrible look for Virginia Tech. This upcoming 2022 recruiting class is slightly better, but I look for approx 10 players to announce they’re opening back up their recruiting to other teams and unfortunately it will be the highest rated.

  3. Angry fans. Will probably soon get exactly what you truly deserve. Won’t pay a dollar to watch a gnat eat a bail of hay. 90 % of Fuente’s tenure he went into battle with 60% of the funding of the programs he had to beat. He finally gets $$to compete with, and that $$ is used to fire him. Hello Vols, Huskers…….

    1. If only he could beat the Dukes, ODUs, Libertys, Syracuses, Pittsburghs, Georgia Techs, and Boston Colleges of the world I would believe you.

  4. Sign of a great leader, point the blame directly on the gentlemen you are “leading”. What a freaking joke this guy is. I guarantee he laughs himself to sleep after these losses knowing how much he’s going to hit pay dirt just to get fired after this season.

    1. Why, by saying what happened on a play that cost us the game. Y’all are always talking about wanting CJF to do less coach speak and when that happens you bitch about it and attack him personally.


    2. Dumbest comment so far. Yeah, I’m sure Fu is laughing about possibly uprooting his family, being disgraced and shamed, figuring out possible next career moves. Just riotously funny stuff here. That Cheetos dust on your fingers is seriously impacting the synapses in your brain.

  5. As we learned from PFF, the safeties did not have a good game – I am assuming the corner thought he had help over the top.

  6. I’m so tired of him throwing the kids under he bus, not a good look. It’s your job to teach them to adjust to the correct coverage.

    1. Why? many people on this web site frequently throw players under the bus. If anything, the fault is Hamilton’s. CF did not mention any names.

    2. The kids are great and are doing what they are coached to do. The people doing the coaching are the problem, not to mention the so-called Athletic Director.

    3. Sounds like they were coached to do it and they didn’t. That’s not throwing “kids” under the bus, it’s explaining what occurred. Sometimes it’s the players fault.

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