Fuente, Gundy meet with media for final time before Camping World Bowl

2017 Camping World Bowl news conference
Head coaches quotes from Wednesday's news conference

By Jimmy Robertson

ORLANDO – Both Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy shared that game preparations are all but finished – the “hay is in the barn,” as Fuente put it – as the two met with media members and answered questions at a final news conference Wednesday before Thursday evening’s Camping World Bowl.

The 30-minute news conference marked the final media availability before the game. Both teams were slated for brief closed practices later Wednesday afternoon, and Tech’s staff plans to conduct position meetings later Wednesday evening. So the news conference allowed reporters a final time to ask an array of questions of both Fuente and Gundy, who sat at a table next to a moderator – with the Camping World Bowl championship trophy in the center.

Here are some highlights from the news conference:

• Fuente and Gundy enjoyed a nice conversation at a dinner outing last night that included bowl officials, the two coaching staffs and the administrative staffs from both schools. The outing allowed the two head coaches to reminisce about the old days when Gundy actually recruited Fuente, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native, out of high school, and of course, also to catch up on more recent topics.

“I’ve just enjoyed kind of catching up and getting a chance to visit about work a little bit and how to handle situations that come up and bounce a couple of challenges that we’ve had off of Coach Gundy,” Fuente said. “I know he’s been in it a little longer than I have and dealt with those same situations. I’ve enjoyed that part of it. I’ve always been appreciative of the way he’s treated me through my playing career up through coaching. I think it’s just a good example of how to handle young guys coming up that are getting into business.”

• Gundy delivered some nice compliments about Virginia Tech’s staff, which comes as no surprise considering he recruited Fuente, played with Tech offensive line coach Vance Vice and worked with Tech offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen. He said that, at some point in the offseason, he and his staff planned to meet with the Hokies’ staff and talk strategy.

“There’s a lot of similarities in the staffs,” Gundy said. “There’s a lot of similarities in the job, I think, in the environments of the two universities, the thought process.

“I heard a couple of our coaches talking with a couple of Justin’s assistants [at Tuesday evening’s dinner] and they said, ‘When this game is over, I need to get with you guys to find out why you’re doing certain things.’ And that’s a smart move. They know a lot about us now, and we should know a lot about them. They’re in a different league. They’re on the other side of the country, and we’ve noticed in the past … we noticed this with Washington when we played them in the Cactus Bowl a few years ago with Coach Petersen and his staff, where we got with them afterwards, and you find a lot of things out and makes you feel like you’re not very smart because you should have already known it. So it’s been good to spend time with the staff.”

• Fuente wasn’t aware that Virginia Tech had never won four straight bowl games – something the Hokies could do with a victory over the Cowboys on Thursday night – until a reporter brought up the subject. Tech’s primary motivation for winning the Camping World Bowl comes from sending the seniors out with a win, and of course, reaching the milestone 10-win plateau.

“We take pride and value in preparing for the bowl game,” Fuente said. “I think that’s been the standard at Virginia Tech long before I got here. Keep those things going, but it’s [winning a fourth straight bowl game] not something I’ve brought up.

“It’s been mostly about the opportunities to get that No. 10. I wish we could play a much worse opponent to get to No. 10, quite honestly, but that’s also the fun part of it – you get to play somebody that is really, really good and is going to be a tremendous challenge for our entire team to get this pulled off.”

• Gundy made several compliments about Virginia Tech’s defense and defensive coordinator Bud Foster throughout the news conference, and it’s not a secret that the Hokies’ defense stands as the strength of this team. Tech’s ‘D’ ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense (13.4 ppg) and 11th nationally in total defense (305.3 ypg).

“I said this once this game was announced after two or three days of watching some tape, I said that this could very well be the best defense that we've competed against,” Gundy said. “You know, there's different ways to make that opinion. Sometimes you do it on athleticism. Sometimes do you it on scheme. But when you look at what they've accomplished with the group that they have in the end, it comes down to do you keep them from scoring or not? And I'm going to go back to what I said when we started this conference today, this press conference, was over a 12-game season, they're only giving up 13.5 points. That's not easy to do.”

• Fuente plans to take some time off after the bowl game – coincidentally to return to Oklahoma. But he’s not going to visit with any coaching staff out there. Instead, he’s spending time with some family members who live in that state.

“Obviously, I have a lot of ties to the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “Half my family went to Oklahoma State and half my family went to Oklahoma, so I never grew up, really, as a huge fan of only one of the two schools. I was kind of indifferent.

“But it's [competing against the Cowboys] just a unique opportunity. That's kind of the fun part of this business. You get to go compete against sometimes people you have background with, sometimes people that you've never met before in our life, and through all the twists and turns of your career, you bump into or come across sometimes people from your past. And I'm excited about it.

“I'm going to go after the game. I'm going to go back to Tulsa and go hang out and see my folks and my sister and all that kind of stuff. I don't think anything will change much for me, but I obviously have a connection to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, and it's kind of neat to see some similar faces from the past.”

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter and on Instagram @HokiesFB Instagram