Tech Talk Live Notes: Off Pitt Win, Brent Pry Previews No. 5 FSU

Brent Pry and Virginia Tech travel down to No. 5 Florida State for a Saturday afternoon clash, which he previewed on Tech Talk Live. (Ivan Morozov)

On Thursday night, Virginia Tech football head coach Brent Pry joined Zach Mackey and Mike Burnop on Tech Talk Live at McClain’s at First & Main to preview Saturday’s game at Florida State in Doak Campbell Stadium (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). They also discussed the 38-21 win over Pitt last weekend.

Brent Pry

Congratulations on that win on Saturday.

Listen, I’m not gonna say I don’t appreciate it, but that’s in our rearview mirror, man. It seems like quite a long time ago, but so happy for everybody in the program and in the whole building, the organization. It was gratifying. It’s much better 12, 15, 18 hours after a win than it is after a loss, that’s for sure. And everybody worked so hard and invested and sacrificed. So just happy for everybody to get a good feeling and get a little return on the investment.

That’s exactly the way you script it, right?

Yeah. It was a great night, the crowd, the white effect. You’re constantly reminded of what a special place we have, how many special people are involved. The atmosphere is incredible. It’s one of the best in college football. We had a bunch of recruits there. They were very impressed. They were excited, they had their cameras out, they were trying to get in the locker room after the game. So a lot of good things happened on Saturday.

Did you get to see that flyover at all? 

No, I just saw it on Twitter. They were excited to do it. They were in the office during the week and trying to work out the logistics and they can only do certain things up till dusk and so they were trying to get the timeline right, but I told him next time I want to be up there.

A Boeing C-17 flew over Lane Stadium before the Virginia Tech-Pitt game on Saturday. It had to be before twilight, per FAA regulations, which is why it was at 7 p.m. for an 8 p.m. game. (Ivan Morozov)

You talked about getting off to fast starts. That’s two weeks in a row now. It makes quite the difference, right?

Yeah, it does. We’ve emphasized it practice. The guys have taken it to heart, they really work at it. We want to come out fast. It’s important, whether you’re at home or away, to get started on the right foot. I think that just gets the crowd into it. It gets our players and team into it. It builds some confidence right out the gate.

What were your takeaways from the way Kyron Drones played? He was named ACC Quarterback of the Week on Monday.

Yeah, he played a good football game. And I think Coach [Tyler] Bowen did a nice job. The plan was right for Kyron to maximize his strengths and the things he does well and to not put too much on his plate from a mental standpoint. Let him play, let him play fast. And that can grow each week a little bit as he goes, but I was very pleased with the way Kyron played. I was very proud of him and very happy for him.

What did you say to Kyron after he had that fumble that Pitt returned for a touchdown, making it a one-score game?

We’ve been there, we’ve done that. I mean, ‘It’s okay. Listen, things are gonna happen. And to me, Kyron, you’re going to help us win this football game. So leave that one behind. We’ve talked all the time about the next play. Don’t worry about the score. Don’t worry about the last play, don’t worry about the next series. Let’s just be in that next moment.’ And he did a great job of that.

How about Bhayshul Tuten? Kyron’s the quarterback of the week, Bhayshul’s the running back of the week. 24 carries, just had over 100 yards.

Yeah, the emphasis was to make sure we got him a certain number of touches and we exceeded that, which was a good thing against a good defense, and he broke tackles, he made guys miss. I think Coach Bowen and his staff did a good job getting him the ball.

Bhayshul Tuten, Jaylin Lane and Virginia Tech picked up their second win of the season vs. Pitt. (Jon Fleming)

What makes a good running back be able to make guys miss?

A couple things come to mind for me. He’s got a low center of gravity, he’s got great balance. He’s got very good vision and he’s tough. I’ve said it before, he came out of the womb to be a tailback. I mean, he’s just built that way. When he walked in the room, you’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a running back.’ He’s just got some special qualities about him. He’s got quiet confidence. I questioned him, I said, ‘I don’t know if you’re in shape enough for more touches,’ and so this week, he’s been running things all the way to the end zone and making sure it’s in. With Kyron’s ability to run the ball and open up the defense a little bit, I think that’s helped Bhayshul and the offensive line is improving each week.

That locker room that might have been the happiest I’ve seen since you’ve been here.

Yeah, there’s a lot of big smiles in there. And I may have had the biggest, but you’re just so happy for everybody. Winning is hard and losing sucks. And to be in that locker room and have those guys just so happy and hugging each other and dancing together, that’s one of the reasons you do this. You put all this hard work in, you want to have some fun on the other side of it. And we were able to do that Saturday night.

What helped the team put out its best product the other day?

We’re trying to put our best product out there. We were a lot closer to it Saturday, but even going back to last year, the adversity and the situations this team and staff have been put in, I think we’ve learned and we’re growing and we’re understanding what it takes to win a little bit better. Nowhere are we near what we need to be, but we are understanding some things, we can fight through adversity, we can stick together, we can never quit. There’s a lot of good things that his team can do.

What did you guys do differently the last couple of weeks at the hotel and in the pregame?

We’ve decided to do everything at our facility on Fridays, meetings, walk-throughs, different things we do on Friday that we normally are used to do at the hotel. Now we’re doing them in our facility so when we get to the hotel, there’s a personal share from one of our players or coaches. They address the team, kind of their testimony to how they got to Virginia Tech, what the game means to them. And then we have dinner, we have chapel. We have a snack, we have a couple games on, guys are playing cards, but it’s pretty relaxed once we get to the hotel. And the guys seem to like it that way. And on Saturdays we just kind of had to amp it up in pregame, it was like we were going through the motions and I’m sitting there going, ‘This isn’t what we need to get ready to start fast,’ so as coaches and players, we’ve got to do better.

Kyron Drones and Virginia Tech have started fast the last two weeks. Can they do it again in Tallahassee? (Jon Fleming)

What did you see on that opening drive when Kyron Drones had that long touchdown pass to Da’Quan Felton?

I think Tyler [Bowen], he’s been working hard at his openers, the things we want to do to start the game. We practiced extra hard at those. And then we’re going to take shots, we’re gonna try and take one a quarter, couple of half, we have to do that, connect on one, and it’s a big play, usually a touchdown. But you’ve gotta be patient. Sometimes it’s incomplete or maybe you get the PI, but we’re gonna throw shots. 

How big was it to score before halftime to take a 21-7 lead into the locker room?

Yeah, it was nice. You’re up 21-7, you’re getting the ball coming out into the second half. That’s what you want. When you are able to score right at the half and then get the ball back, that’s always a good thing.

You elected to go for it twice on fourth down in that game. Was it something you were just feeling or something you felt with the way the offense was playing?

Sometimes I listen to those analytics guys, sometimes I tell him to get lost. The instincts are part of it and the feel of the team and where we’re at. Just what’s right at the moment. And for us right now, that was the right call.

As a defensive guy, how cool was it to see that fourth-quarter drive that ate up almost nine minutes off the clock?

Yeah, it seemed like it lasted forever. I mean, those guys were out there for a long time. They only had 46 plays, Pitt’s offense. But yeah, it was a beautiful, beautiful thing. When you can control the ball like that against a good defense, I think that’s a good sign. And it’s the play call, it’s the execution, it’s protecting the ball. There were a lot of things that happened in that drive, and we just stayed on course, kept moving the sticks, and in the end, it really closed out the game. John [Love] was able to kick the field goal and that was a nail in the coffin.

The Lane Stadium crowd absolutely loved the performance from the Hokies on Saturday vs. Pitt. (Jon Fleming)

What did you think about your run defense holding Pitt to 38 yards on the ground?

Yeah, it was our best outing to date. There’s always room for improvement, but we tackled well, we fit well. We didn’t give up the explosive run, which was important. The screen play was an ugly one. We worked hard on it this week. But that’s been a work in progress. Our run defense is coming around. But you have to line up to be physical each week, which I thought we were the more physical team Saturday night. That made the difference in us being able to do some things offensively and do a better job with our run defense. But the fits are important, the tackling is important and being healthy is important.

And creating a turnover on the 10-yard line helps too. Mario Kendricks and Antwaun Powell-Ryland got to the quarterback and forced a fumble.

Yeah, that sack was timely and then we had a sack on a big third down. That had them working from their own end zone, so we got the ball at midfield and Jaylin Lane scored a couple plays later. When you can be productive in that coming out area, when their backs are to the wall and you can go make some minus yardage plays, that’s usually a good thing.

APR and those guys up front seemed to win some one-on-one battles against Pitt.

We have to do that, we’re doing a better job this year. I think J.C. Price put the time in this offseason, he visited folks, we brought in some martial arts experts a couple of different times to work on our hands and our hips and traps and we’re making progress there.

That was a big offseason topic. You’ve seen improvement there?

Yeah, to win one-on-one combat, right? He’s trying to get hand placement and get leverage on you and you’re trying to win and knock hands off and get hips through and martial arts, that’s what it’s all about. And we had a guy that we got to know at Penn State, worked with our group a bunch and he was happy to come down and spend time with us. I mean, the first time he worked with the coaches, they were all sore and full of sweat and they’d been in a fight, but then we transitioned it to the players and then he came back again in the summer and did a nice job. So every little bit matters.

Antwaun Powell-Ryland and the Hokies pressured Pitt quarterback Phil Jurkovec well. (Ivan Morozov)

Pheldarius Payne, he had another big game. What have you liked about Payne so far?

I love talking about it. Just coming in here and having an injury before he got started was tough. He had an injury coming out of junior college. He gets to Nebraska and plays well. It’s not what he wants and I’m just happy he’s in his last year and they see him have success and help us. I think his role is going to continue to grow. But you’re happy for both areas.

You had a ton of recruits like you said to the game. What were their thoughts and experiences from the game on Saturday?

Yeah, we follow up and you want to make sure you say, ‘How was that?’ What did you think?’ Obviously, most of them, it was a great occasion for them. They had their phones out. They heard about it, they watched the video but to be there in person, that’s another story. There were a couple of dads that were Metallica fans and they were fired up. The other thing is, it resonates all the way through, like we had some guys here that maybe weren’t prospects for us, but they’ve got teammates and guys they play against that are our prospects and they go back to their town in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia Beach and they rave about the experience and talk about it.

It’s infectious and word spreads. So we’re doing some good things that way. I’m so proud of the fan base. It’s unbelievable. You’d have to show me another place in a country that is selling out like we are coming off of a losing season. A slow start to sell out like we do is a testament to the commitment of this place and the passion for Hokie football.

What are the logistics of putting on something with the 100 recruits? 

Yeah, we’ve got a great recruiting staff Mike Villagrana, Jalyn Ballein, Alex Jones, all those guys. There’s a tremendous effort up there when you talk about staffing to do it the right way and to be able to do those things. It takes a lot of personnel and they’re tirelessly working at it. It’s not just an invite. It’s, ‘Hey, come to the game,’ then it’s following up and how you’re getting here and who’s coming with you and how many people, there’s only so many tickets that they can get by NCAA rule. So there’s logistics to all of it. Where are you going to park on a day like that? You don’t want to recruit having to go park in Outer Mongolia. You want the experience to be good, you get them on campus.

There’s a lot that goes into that, you want it to go well. ‘How’s the food? Is there a wait for it? How’s their tickets?’ All those things, you want them to have a great experience. There’s a lot of planning that goes into that, we go over that list. Each and every Friday, every player who’s coming with them. Who do I need to see? We go from table-to-table and we take photos to follow up with them. We got parents’ names, we got history. When’s the last time they were here? What did they do, did they win their game? We go over that Saturday morning, all the scores and stats of the guys that are coming. Did they win, did they lose? Did you have an interception, did you have three touchdowns? We’ve gotta go over all that so that we’re really on point when those guys walk on campus. A lot that goes into it. 

Bob Schick and the offensive line created some holes for the Hokies to run through against the Panthers. (Jon Fleming)

259 yards on the ground for the Hokies. What do you think of offensive line play in a game where you were able to move things around?

It was a combination of a lot of things. I thought the offensive line played physical, our most physical game to date. I thought the plan was good, I thought Kyron being able to run the ball in the alleys open some things up. And obviously Bhayshul [Tuten] and Malachi [Thomas], I think we’ve got a good one-two punch there. You saw that on Saturday. Bhayshul was the one, but Malachi did some good things when he got into the game. I thought the tight ends blocked better. There’s a lot that goes into running the ball well, and we need to do it again this weekend.

I think people also need to understand that a lot of these guys are playing for the first time or in new positions from last season. It takes some time to mesh.

Yeah, I think it always does, but with Braelin Moore not playing, Brody Meadows stepped up and did a nice job. Kaden Moore‘s in a new spot, but Coach [Ron] Crook and those guys are doing a nice job keeping that group going in the right direction. That’s the thing. I’m always looking for us. Are we improving? Are we getting better? And how close are we to our potential? And we’re doing a good job, they’re making strides.

A couple things stood out on special teams. There was a punt where only ten men were on the field. Did Peter Moore recognize that and not snap it?

We recognized it from the sideline, we had a freshman [Dante Lovett] not get out there. The smart thing was to take the delay. Go ahead, give up the five and then kick it. So it worked out okay. But obviously, I saw him at the penalty run on Sunday. That penalty was not on Peter, trust me.

Peter also did a nice job fielding that one snap, too.

He sure did. He is a pretty athletic guy. He’s good at fielding some snaps that are not where they need to be. He’s kicking the ball well, I think Kyle [Lowe] is also kicking the ball well, John [Love] being able to put the game away. I mean, we’re doing some good things, though we’ve had some miscommunications. I think our return game to me should be better. We’ve got some guys that can do some things with the ball between Tucker Holloway, Jaylin Lane, Bhayshul and we’ve got to sustain blocks a little bit better. We’ve got to get to play starting at the line of scrimmage on punt return. We’ve had some miscommunications back there. So we’re working hard to clean that up because I think there’s some positive plays, some big plays that can be made in our return game.

It’s unlikely that quarterback Grant Wells is healthy enough to play at Florida State. He hasn’t seen the field since Week 2 vs. Purdue. (Jon Fleming)

What about the injury status?

Nasir Peoples, he had a good week of practice. He got some good reps Tuesday. He got a few more reps Wednesday. I think at this point, I would say he’s gonna play. I don’t know how much — it might be a series, a half, something like that to complement those guys — but we need it. He’s physical, he’s a good tackler. He seems to feel pretty good right now. Jaylen Jones is questionable. He’s been in a blue jersey Tuesday, Wednesday. Today’s walkthrough, he was able to do that. Cole Beck, I think he’ll probably play. I don’t know how much. Tomorrow is a fast Friday, we get some good full speed work, and then pregame Saturday tells us a lot.

You can look at a guy and see, ‘Is he ready to play or not? How hungry is he? And does he feel confident?’ So we got some guys, Braelin Moore, he actually got some good work Tuesday, Wednesday. I think we’ll see him, how much I don’t know yet. But we’ll see him complement the O-line. Grant [Wells] throws the ball well. Tomorrow’s a big day for him. So we’re getting some guys back that honestly are down the line guys that would be working on the scout teams and things, those surgical guys that are gonna help us help us prepare on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday. These guys have been on the sideline and forcing some other guys to get some reps that maybe they wouldn’t have, so I’m anxious to get all these guys back.

They were 2-for-10 on third down, you guys were 8-for-16. You guys were 4-for-4 in the red zone, too. Did you feel like that made a difference?

Yeah, it sure does. I mean, staying on schedule, giving you some third-and-shorts, third-and-mediums, that’s big. And again, that goes back to the play-calling, to the plan you have on third down to what they do. Most teams have six, seven calls you’ll see on third down defensively or offensively. And so you can really hone in a little bit better and get a good plan for third down.

How about that one play where Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw ran about 75 yards and picking up three?

Let me tell you, he might have had his eyes closed because that thing opened up. It was a parting of the seas, all I saw was a goalpost when I looked at the film. He’s explosive, he’s quick. He made a bunch of guys miss on that play. He needs to be part of what we’re doing moving forward. I mean, he’s got incredible speed. But we got to do more of that stuff that loosens up the defense. I watched that play and I said to Tyler [Bowen], ‘Look how many defensive players had to change direction, break one way break another way, chase him over here.’ You just invest in those kinds of things and it takes a toll on a defense. That was a tired group by the fourth quarter. That was us a couple of weeks ago. They were a tired defense in the fourth quarter.

Kyron Drones had to run on Sunday for his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he spiked the football after a touchdown. (Ivan Morozov)

I saw your quote on Kyron Drones. After that touchdown and spike, you said nice work and I’ll see you at Sunday penalty sprints.

Yeah, he had 15 of them, 20 yards each, full speed. I thought about having him spike the ball and then run the sprint to remind him. The thing is, I should have had a Bhayshul run because he got away with one earlier.

When you put on the tape and turn it on, what do you see out of Florida State?

I shut it off pretty quick. I tried to turn it on Sunday morning, I felt I was going to enjoy this win a little bit more before I’ll watch these guys. They’re just explosive. They’re one of the best scoring offenses in the country. Quarterback does a great job protecting the ball. The O-line protects him. They don’t give up sacks, they don’t turn the ball over. They’ve got some avatars at wide receiver that can go up and get the ball. I mean, they’ve just got a really nice offense and then you put the defensive film on and they got guys making plays, making people miss. The couple of defensive linemen that are a problem, you have to know where they are each and every snap and make sure you have a plan for him.

There’s a reason they’re No. 5 in the country. It all starts with quarterback Jordan Travis.

He’s a veteran, experienced, never gets rattled. Got feet that can move around, extend plays. My hat’s off to him, he does a nice job. I’ve got tremendous respect for Mike Norvell, we played that Memphis group when I was at Penn State. We played them in the Cotton Bowl. And Mike had taken a job at Florida State, but he has a way of harnessing his talent and making sure they get the ball and finding creative ways to get it to him. I think that’s what you’re seeing at Florida State right now.

What about some of his favorite targets, Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson?

Hey, it’s a great challenge for Dorian Strong and Mansoor Delane. They really haven’t been challenged yet. And I think we got to pretty good corners. To go out there and match up with those guys, I’ve been teaching them all week. I said, ‘Everything says they’re gonna bully you guys. That’s what I’m hearing. It’s in the chat rooms and everything else that you guys are gonna get bullied. They’re gonna make their plays, they’re gonna make some big catches, but you guys gotta make some plays too. Some big PBUs, make that INT. We’ve got to find a way to get to the quarterback a couple of times and make him have a bad throw.’ So they’re gonna make their place. They’re gonna do that because they’re a good enough football team, good enough offense, but we’ve got to make ours.

Dorian Strong and Mansoor Delane will be heavily challenged through the air this week. (Ivan Morozov)

How about Keonta Jenkins, who is from Jacksonville, getting a chance to go play close to home?

We’ve got a couple of guys from Florida and it’s big for them to go back and play this group. And there’s a long history with Virginia Tech and Florida State. I think our guys understand that and they’re excited about it. They’ve got some confidence right now. They know they’re playing a really good football team and we have to play as well as we think we played Saturday. They all know we’ve got to play better than that this Saturday to be in that game in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win.

Florida State is coming off a bye. Do you think that’ll have an impact?

I think it all depends. I’ve been around teams where you come out of it better. I’ve been around teams where you’ve come out of it out of sync a little bit, so hopefully that’s the case for them.

Florida State has experience up front, doesn’t it?

It’s a veteran group. They’re really wide from what I’m told. They got a heck of an O-line coach, the guy’s done a great job. He’s the play-caller along with Coach Norvell. But it’s a good group.

What about on that defensive line? They’ve got a guy who is probably going to be a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft.

Jared Verse is a special guy. We recruited him out of the portal as well. University of Albany transfer. He’s good in the run game, he’s good in the throw game. And then they got a big tackle, Braden Fiske, that’s a problem that is hard to solve. He’s got a great motor. They’ve got guys up front that can merit minus-yardage plays and get you off schedule.

Who has the No. 25 jersey this weekend?

Derrick Canteen. Nice job last week with a couple of big tackles, versatile. He’s a big-time player.

Derrick Canteen will wear No. 25 for the Hokies at Florida State. (Ivan Morozov)

Does Dorian Strong still have that lunch pail?

Yeah, he does. They’re talking about moving it, the defensive staff after practice. We’ll see what happens.

He had a great pass breakup against Pitt.

Yeah, he sure did. That was big. Looked like maybe that thing was gonna drop in there and he showed up. So he’s practiced really well and played really well. He’s been able to stay healthy, put some weight on. He’s got great hips, great feet. He can run. I’m excited for him in this test this weekend.

Have you ever been to Florida State? 

No, I have not coached there. Recruited Tallahassee a little bit but I’ve never coached at their place.

Keon Coleman is FSU’s punt returner. What kind of threat is he?

Yeah, we told the guys he’s a big target. You drop the shoulder pads and hit him right in the sternum.

What time are you guys leaving on Friday?

We’re gonna do everything here so we don’t pull out until about 1:30. We will then head to Roanoke and hopefully fly out on time and get going. We have an 8:30 team meeting. So the guys get up, they have breakfast, which is mandatory, starts at 7:30, and we get into our routine and get going. I’m excited about tomorrow. The guys have done a great job on Fridays.

Brent Pry and the Hokies travel to Florida State for the first time since 2018. (Ivan Morozov)

Have you had to take a little extra precaution this week in terms of hydration because of the heat and humidity this week?

Yeah, we do. It’s talked about in every team meeting on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday because your hydration starts early in the week. It’s what you eat, it’s what you drink, it’s how you sleep. That’s coupled with a plane ride, which also affects your hydration, and then the humidity that’s going to be present down there on Saturday, and the guys have taken a mature approach right now, they’ve done a nice job. We haven’t had IVs with many guys, we haven’t had a ton of cramping. We had an issue the first couple of weeks and we’ve done better there and we’re gonna have to do a great job with it heading into Saturday.

I have to imagine the guys are excited for the opportunity to play a top-five team after a big win last week, right?

They’re confident right now. I think we felt for weeks like we’re a pretty good football team, we just needed to put it together. And we did a much better job that Saturday night. The message was we have to improve this week to have a chance to go win this next one. We’ve got to improve this week and I think they’ve done that. It’s been a good week, so I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t go down there and play a good football game.

5 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Very good things usually happen when you go for it on 4th at the right times. You have to be even more aggressive when you’re a big dog like we are today.

  2. I hope they tell Drones et al to protect ball all the way into the end zone. Too much raising ball and hands on 3 or 4 yard line.

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