Home Press Conference: Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente

Press Conference: Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente


Virginia Tech football coach talks with reporters at his weekly press conference.

Opening Statement: “I want to thank everyone that made the trip to Pittsburgh. It was great to see the Hokie Nation turn out. It’s always cool to watch the kids celebrate with their fans. I hope many of them will make the trip down to Duke this week for a very tough test that we have in front of us. It’s good to be back on a normal schedule after making it through the two Thursday games. Our kids are anxious to be back on a normal routine. “We have a tremendous challenge in front of us. Coach Cutcliffe has won everywhere he has been. I think the job that he has done at Duke is maybe underappreciated on a national level. I think he is a one of the fine coaches in our sport. He always has his team ready to play, and they will be a tremendous challenge for us in all three phases of the game. When you watch them play, they play with great effort. They are well coached in all three phases of the game, and they will pose a really big challenge for us. I know our kids are really looking forward to it. Obviously, we lost a close ball game at home against Duke last year. I am confident that we will have a good week of prep as we get ready for this one.” On how QB Jerod Evans looked in practice following the ankle sprain at Pittsburgh: “Good.”

On if QB Jerod Evans participated in a full practice yesterday: “Yes.”

On if he has been pleased with the team catching the ball and making yards after the catch: “Each week is different in terms of how you try and throw the ball based on what you’re getting. Last week, it was a lot of tight coverage, so there wasn’t a lot of hooking it up in a zone, catching the ball and getting up field. It just wasn’t a part of it. It was kind of the same two weeks ago against Miami. I think our guys are conscious of trying to get north and south with the ball after they make a catch. I don’t know where we are at in terms of yards after catch and all that sort of stuff, but I do like the way our kids have approached that part of it.”

On if the team was able to take an extra day off this week: “We practiced a little bit longer yesterday than we usually do the day after a game. It was much more gameplan-oriented. We did give the kids some time off. On Friday, we brought them and had meetings. They had a good lift and a run in. They were off on Saturday. Then we had a little bit longer practice yesterday. That’s supposed to be the reward of playing a Thursday game. You have to kind of compact all your preparation, but you should get rewarded for it on the back end of it, and because of us playing two straight Thursday games, we had to wait until this week to do that. We gave them a little bit of time, but hopefully, they will be fresh and know what to do come Saturday.”

On how you stop guys from thinking ahead and about the possibility of a division title: “I think we have a pretty good reference point for ourselves in the season. The last time everyone was patting us on the back and telling us how good of a job we’ve been doing, we went up to Syracuse and got smacked around. I think that is a pretty clear reference point for our guys in terms of the preparation and the intensity in which we will have to play. The margin for error is very small. I still feel the same way that I felt before the season about our division, and that is that there is not a big difference between anyone. I don’t think we are done seeing interesting outcomes. We watch the teams that are continuing to get better like Virginia and Georgia Tech, and certainly Duke has had their share of big games already this year. One, we have a good reference point. Two, I don’t think everybody is very far ahead of anybody else in this division.”

On if anybody has stood out to him on the kickoff and punt return coverage units: “I think we have been good on kickoffs. First of all, we are not taking granted that Joey is going to kick it out of the end zone. We had a tremendous challenge last week. Their scheme was different. To their credit, it was different and difficult. Their returner was very talented. Obviously, (WR) Divine (Deablo) made a big play, forcing a fumble. I see some of our younger guys do a good job; (DB) Jovonn Quillen did a good job, and (FB) Steven Peoples is on that unit. Then there are some older guys mixed in there too. (DB) Chuck Clark had a nice open field tackle last week. Chuck also is on our punt team. Some of the product of better punt coverage has been better punts to cover, good hang time. (P) Mitch (Mitchell Ludwig) continues to get better, which is a good sign for us. It helps us get down there and cover those things.”

On what it meant to him with guys wearing the No. 25 and making big plays: “It’s been really neat, and the kids know it too. I wasn’t sure who caused the fumble last week, except for the fact that the smile on (WR) Divine’s (Deablo) face as he came off the field literally just filled his helmet up. It was pure joy. Part of it was because he made a play, but part of it was because he was wearing the No. 25. I think he was really proud of that. When we decided to do this, I felt like the fans and the people that love Virginia Tech would appreciate it, but I really wanted the kids to get excited about it and take great pride in it, and they certainly have. The way that those guys have played while wearing that jersey has just contributed to that, and it has been a really neat thing.”

On the support team has received on the road: “It’s been great. Obviously, it’s my first year here, and to see how well we travel, whether we are just getting off the bus or taking the field to start the game. It’s kind of odd. Usually they are all in one spot. Last week, they were kind of separated throughout the stadium. I said this before, but it’s very nice to work at a place that really wants to support what your kids are doing on a weekly basis, whether they have to drive a couple hours or not. Our kids certainly notice it, I know that.”

On struggling in the Red Zone against Pitt: “We didn’t execute a couple things that we tried to do down there as well. Part of it is that they gave us a couple things coming off a couple weeks off. They played it a little bit different down there. A couple times we did try and take shots down there. We didn’t complete them. We didn’t make the plays. (WR) Isaiah (Ford) had one. The ball was a little far outside. Talking to the staff in retrospect and knowing what we know now, we probably should’ve taken a couple more shots down there. It was a little bit of everything in terms of our execution and them doing a good job. A couple times we did take shots down there, and we didn’t complete them. In retrospect, I wish we would’ve taken a couple more, and gave our guys a chance down there a couple more times.”

On his initial impression to have three WRs like Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and Bucky Hodges to work with right away: “Well, I was obviously excited about those guys. As excited as I was about their talent level, I was more pleased with their work ethic, unselfishness and team-oriented mentality as much as I was excited about the fact that they can run and catch. They are smart football players. As we went along, I felt like their job was to continue to push those guys and help those guys get better, but we also were going to need other guys to come forward. Obviously, we are still working on that. Those three guys alone give you a lot to be excited about.”

On DT Nigel Williams’ injury status: “We will see. There are no real updates.”

On the run game at Pittsburgh: “I’ll go back to what I’ve said since I’ve been here. I don’t really care who gets the yards. We had over 100-yards rushing, which is not a monster day by any standpoint. Don’t get me wrong, but they were giving up less than 100-yards rushing. There is a reason for that. If it means we have to run a reverse to run the ball, then we have to get the ball to the perimeter and find a way to eke out some form of running game, then I’m ok with that. I don’t think it is indicative of (RB) Travon (McMillian) or (RB) Marshawn (Williams) performances. I don’t think it is indicative of any one person other than we have to find a way to get it done. Obviously, the way they played made it hard on everyone to run the football. That’s certainly true. That’s undeniable. The fact that we found a way to have whatever the numbers were running the football. When we had the ball with two minutes to go, we got 10 yards – however we got it, whether it was (WR) Cam Phillips with a one-yard run around the edge or (QB) Brenden (Motley) pouring it up in there. We got 10 yards.”

On what he has seen from TE Bucky Hodges for him to receive the ball more this season: “No. I didn’t know that everyone was frustrated with Bucky not getting the ball enough. Nothing particular. Each week, teams chose to try and play their strengths against our strengths, and we do our best to match those things up. We will have a different challenge this week. (TE) Bucky (Hodges) may or may not get balls his way, but the thing I know about Bucky is that he is going to try hard and do the other things if he doesn’t have the ball to help us win the game.”

On if it is frustrating to see the opposing coaches’ demeanor on the sidelines: “I’m pretty good at ignoring. Listen, my boss and I have a clear definition of what we think the Virginia Tech head coach should be like. If other people have different definitions at different places, that’s totally up to them. It’s none of business, so I have no issue with any of that until we discredit the effort that our kids put in. Then there is some issue to be had with that. In terms of other coaches behavior on the sidelines, that’s their business.”



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