Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech Football Players Reflect on the 2016 Belk Bowl

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomas1996 | Dec 30, 2019
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

The last time Virginia Tech played in Charlotte, the Hokies were involved in a classic of a game against Arkansas at the 2016 Belk Bowl.

The game was one of the wildest as the Razorbacks jumped out to a 24-0 lead at halftime before the Hokies scored 35 unanswered points to defeat the Razorbacks 35-24. The win gave Justin Fuente a 10-4 season in his first year at the helm of the Hokies and the first 10-win season for Virginia Tech since 2011.

Fuente has very good memories about that bowl game and the special character of the veteran-laden team that pulled off the incredible comeback.

"We had a fantastic senior class is the first thing I remember. We were a different team than we are now, we were much older football team that had great character as well as great preparation into the game; even though we stunk it up in the first half, it was not a case of players sleep walking through a bowl game, it was that we were not playing very well. We were pressing, we really wanted to get to ten wins and at halftime it was almost the feeling of guys being upset about it. I don’t mean like slamming their helmets down, it was just a feeling of we wanted halftime to be over so we can go fix this.

"I will always remember that feeling at halftime and telling the guys that nobody likes what just happened and we can’t do anything about that, we can go win this game one play at a time and that’s all you can do. You can’t go win it all at once and those guys just went out there play after play after play and really flipped the script in the second half. It was a really cool game to be a part of in terms of those guys getting what they deserved in terms of finishing the season off the right way and winning the Belk Bowl," Justin Fuente said.

As you can tell, many of Fuente's memories relate to the players that played in that game and their response, and not necessarily the result. One of those players who was a lot younger at that time playing in that game was Reggie Floyd.

The Hokies' senior starting rover will be playing his final bowl game in the same place he played his first with fond memories of that first Belk Bowl appearance.

"It’s just a history and tradition thing coming out here, it was my first time playing against a SEC team against Arkansas. Being behind those guys and seeing how they played and competed against those guys no matter what their status had showed me a lot of planning to come out here and competing with the same mentality and see how the game goes," Reggie Floyd said about that game and what he learned from it.

Many of the current Virginia Tech players have their own memories of that game like Dalton Keene who especially remembers the incredible comeback.

"I remember watching it. I was sitting at home watching it with my dad. It was one of the craziest comebacks I‘ve ever seen," Keene said.

Unlike Keene, James Mitchell wasn't able to watch the game having a basketball game that day. However, given that he's from Southwest Virginia, those at his basketball game were made aware of the halftime score.

"I was playing a basketball game and before I was getting ready to go play, they announced the score was 24-0 and I was thinking it was over. After the game, they announced that they came back and won so that was the memory I had of the game," Mitchell said.

While the memories of the game may vary, what was clear from both Justin Fuente and Reggie Floyd is that the focus is on this year's Belk Bowl with Fuente not seeing much that can be carried over from 2016 to prepare his team for this year's game.

"No, not really. I don’t see much carry over and how it would maintain to our guys right now."