Hokies begin to regroup after loss to Miami, long trip home

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente made it perfectly clear at his news conference Monday that the program’s Sunday’s travel issues would not be a hindrance in his staff’s and the players’ preparations for this Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech.

To recap, it turned out to be a nightmarish 24 hours for the Hokies. In addition to losing 28-10 to Miami on Saturday evening, they twice tried to land in Roanoke on the return trip home early Sunday, but were unable to do so because of a thick fog blanketing the area.

They wound up being diverted to Raleigh, North Carolina, where they sat until daylight in hopes of getting a better weather window. Alas, another attempt to land in Roanoke failed, and the travel party found itself at the Tri-Cities Airport in Bristol, Tennessee, where it waited a couple of hours for the buses to travel from Roanoke to Bristol and then it bused the remainder of the way home, arriving in Blacksburg a little after 3 p.m.

Normally, Tech practices Sunday evening, but the players received treatment from the sports medicine staff once they arrived back in town and got in a brief lifting session before being sent home.

“I just felt like, with everything that went into that travel, let them get some rest and that sort of stuff,” Fuente said. “Hopefully they got some rest and get ready because it’s going to be a tough one this week, a tremendous challenge. We need great leadership and a great week of preparation, as we prepare for this one.”

Sunday’s practice includes only a small portion of game preparation for the upcoming opponent. In addition to treatment and lifting, the Hokies also use Sunday’s practice to work on special teams, do some 7-on-7 pass skeleton drills and perform two-minute work in addition to a short segment devoted to the upcoming game plan.

“There’s a small element of stuff that we didn’t hit that we would have usually hit on a normal Sunday,” Fuente said. “But hopefully this time in the season, this late in the season, with some of our veteran guys, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, hopefully we can overcome that.

“I certainly will not use that [Sunday’s travel issues] as an issue or an excuse moving forward. It’s just, as a head coach, you’ve got to weigh the good and the bad, and that’s what we do all the time every single week, trying to figure out the best way to get your team knowing what to do and feeling good. Because of all that stuff [Sunday’s travel issues], I feel like that was the best way to do it.”

Here are some other notes from Monday’s news conference:

• Fuente also made it clear that the Hokies have plenty to play for, even though the Miami loss eliminated them from a spot in the ACC Championship Game. He cited playing in a bowl game, sending the seniors out the right way and beating rival Virginia as a few examples, along with simply playing for a school like Virginia Tech, with a passionate fan base that loves and supports its football program.

There is also the small matter of exacting a little payback from a Georgia Tech team that won at Lane Stadium last year with a backup quarterback.

“I know it’s disappointing when you want to achieve something and you come up short, but the mark of anyone, a true competitor whether it’s football or life, is how you handle adversity and how you respond to those things, how your leadership responds to those obstacles, and the only way to get to feeling better is to go play better,” Fuente said. “When you have disappointments, there is only one solution that I know of, whether it’s football or life, is to roll your sleeves up and go back to work.

“I’m optimistic about our guys. That doesn’t mean they’re not disappointed. They’re disappointed, and they had a long trip home and all those sorts of things. I think it’s good for them to have a day off and come back tomorrow [Monday] and be ready to get back to it.”

• A common theme in Tech’s two losses this season is the poor start to each game. In both, the Hokies failed to score in the first quarter, and even in some victories this season, Tech’s offense has failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter. In fact, in the wins over West Virginia, Delaware, Old Dominion and North Carolina, Tech’s offense did not score a touchdown in the first quarter.

Fuente addressed that Monday.

“We know what we are and how it has to be for us to have success. It’s just going to be hard. Things are going to be difficult,” he said. “We’re not as explosive a football team as we were last year. Points will be harder to come by, whether it’s the first quarter or the second quarter.

“I think part of that is because things have to be pretty perfect for us to have success right now. In the first quarter, teams play you slightly different than they have other teams throughout the week. You have to try and get a handle on it. When you’re better or more established or older, then those things don’t matter as much because you can overcome them with experience and talent – and right now, we’re just not there yet.”

• Fuente revealed that freshman receiver Drake Deluliis would be eligible for a medical hardship waiver following the season. The staff played Deluliis in the Boston College game and planned on working the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder into a Bucky Hodges-type role, but Deluliis injured his hamstring during the bye week after the BC game and hasn’t been able to get up to full speed.

“I do believe will be able to get a redshirt,” Fuente said. “He played in the Boston College game, pulled his hamstring in the bye week, then worked hard to get back, and then re-injured it. It’s just one of those deals. We were preparing to move forward with him playing a role and what we’re doing, and he’s pretty frustrated and upset about it, and I’m just trying to get him back.”

• The Hokies will play back-to-back noon games, as the ACC announced game times for Saturday, Nov. 18, and Tech will play Pittsburgh in a game that kicks at 12:20 p.m. The Hokies won last year’s meeting in Pittsburgh.

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