There’s been a buzz around the Virginia Tech football team since they defeated No. 22 Duke last weekend. The Hokies found themselves back in the AP Top 25 and fans and media feel like last week’s showing is more of what we can expect from the team going forward.
Before the Hokies take on their biggest test so far in No. 6 Notre Dame, coaches and players took to the podium to talk about last weekend’s win and look forward to Saturday’s primetime matchup.
Foster praises defensive performance
One of the biggest criticisms following to loss to Old Dominion was the way the defense performed. The 0-3 Monarchs were able to put up 49 points on the Hokies and made the defense look confused the entire game.
That needed to change going forward, and Virginia Tech did a good job of adjusting heading into the Duke game.
“I’m hoping they saw that the work we put into it was the work we got out of Saturday,” Foster said. “Every game from here will be a 60 minute fight, and the team that can be disciplined and do it all the time is the team that wins games.”
The defense limited Duke to just 14 points in the win and looked completely different from the previous week. Coaches and players have spoken about the way the team practiced leading up to the game, with safety Divine Deablo saying that the team practiced like they were going to win.
One player who Foster highlighted individually was defensive back Jovonn Quillen, who made a drastic turnaround from the ODU game. Quillen did not make a single tackle against ODU, but stepped up this week to register seven tackles against Duke.
“I was disappointed with him the week before,” Foster said about cornerback Jovonn Quillen. “He really turned it around against Duke. We need him to step up and he did that this week. We need him to continue to move in that direction.”
Foster congratulates Beamer
The athletic department announced on Monday that legendary head coach Frank Beamer would be receiving a monument on Moody Plaza outside of Lane Stadium. The former Hokies’ coach has received many congratulations since the announcement, including from his long-time defensive coordinator.
“In my eyes, he is Virginia Tech, and I couldn’t be happier for him,” Foster said about Beamer.
Foster went on to joke later that the monument should include him crouched down next to Beamer.
Wide receivers have room to grow
Wide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins spent some time taking questions from the media yesterday, and he had lots to say about his group of players. Head coach Justin Fuente spoke earlier this week about the wide receivers playing on the perimeter, and Wiggins agreed with what he had to say.
“I concur with the head coach. It’s always been an issue,” Wiggins said. “We have a chart in the wide receiver room that keeps track of what they do without the ball in their hands.”
Wiggins spoke on some players who have been proactive in trying to improve their game, especially sophomore Damon Hazelton.
“He’s his biggest critic,” Wiggins said. “We look at film after the game and say, ‘This is what you can do better.’ We’ve got to be more consistent catching the ball and being a whole lot better without the ball.”
Hazelton has made 15 receptions for 348 yards and four touchdowns this season, but he and the coaches know there is always room to improve.
Another big target for the Hokies this season has been Eric Kumah, who has 12 receptions on the year. Wiggins talked a bit about Kumah’s size, saying that he has been challenging him to use his frame and do things in the game that he should’ve been doing.
“I call that big boy ball. You need to go play like it, not just look like it,” Wiggins said.
Hokies face biggest test yet in Notre Dame
The biggest game of the season for Virginia Tech takes place this weekend as No. 6 Notre Dame comes to town for the first time in program history. The Hokies have a bit of momentum following the Duke win, and this matchup is big enough to attract ESPN’s Saturday Night Football crew.
Looking forward to the game, those around the program have acknowledged how much of a challenge this weekend will be.
Foster started the talk of the Fighting Irish by noting how their offensive line could be tough for his defense to face.
“They are big, physical, and they are probably all what you want them to look like,” Foster said . “Just overall, an extremely talented team.”
Foster also talked about Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, who has thrown for six touchdowns over the last two games.
“He just has that ‘it’ factor,” Foster said. “He’s got a live arm, he’s got escapability, he can run and create things, he makes good decisions. This guy can do it all.”
Deablo touched on Notre Dame’s powerful offense, saying, “They are a very physical, tough team. Lots of speed on the outside. Their quarterback is very dangerous.”
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame's defense has the potential to provide some challenges for the Hokies offense.
“There’s going to be a lot of man coverage, kind of like what we saw with Duke,” Wiggins said. “There’s no holes in that defense.”
Quarterback Ryan Willis praised Notre Dame's defense, but said that the Hokies will be ready come game time.
“They’re physical, tough, and big, and I think our offensive line will be ready to go,” Willis said.
With a big game, of course, comes a lot of hype. Tech fans were hoping for College Gameday to return to Blacksburg for the second-straight season, but the game will still receive lots of attention without it. Willis mentioned during the press conference that he is excited to get the start on Saturday night.
“I’m not really sure what to expect coming out of the tunnel in Lane,” Willis said. “I’m most excited for the atmosphere. I don’t think I could start my first one in Lane in a bigger game.”
As for the electricity inside of Lane this weekend, Quillen knows what to expect from the home fans.
“I know the Hokies are going to be jumping,” Quillen said. “It’s going to be tough for them and it’s going to be a good game.”
- Caleb Farley sympathized with teammate Houshun Gaines, whose mom passed away this week. “I feel for House a lot in this moment, because I know it can really get you down. I’m glad he enjoys being here as an escape. I have not gotten to see him one on one yet. I’m ready to embrace him,” Farley said.
- Khalil Ladler says that he likes playing the WHIP position better, because “you’re closer to the ball.”
- Hendon Hooker said he was disappointed that his rushing average dropped from 69 yards down to 23 after this weekend’s game. Speaking about his 69-yard touchdown against William & Mary, Hooker said, “It was shocking. I haven’t really had a lot of breakaway runs in my career.