Photo Credit: Jake Roth
Over the past two seasons, Virginia Tech has struggled to put together good performances after a bye week. After their first open date this season, the Hokies took a 45-10 beating from Duke that led to a QB change.
This was not the first time under head coach Justin Fuente that Virginia Tech has suffered a surprising loss after a bye week. In fact, both of last season’s most surprising losses against Old Dominion and Georgia Tech came after off week's (one scheduled in advance and one last minute addition).
All of these games were not only losses, but ones that were hard, if not impossible, to explain or not be surprised by. The question for the Hokies now is whether they can prove that this latest bye week was more beneficial.
“We’ve really talked about that, that we’ve got to come...out at the get go and play well,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “That’s going to be important, particularly coming off a bye and...playing on the road.”
One way the coaching staff has tried to prepare for that is by keeping practice intense all week. Foster mentioned as much, and defensive end TyJuan Garbutt agreed.
“We’ve been doing good on good, as in whoever can really go and isn’t too banged up, we’ve been practicing hard and doing a lot of situational work,” Garbutt said. “[We’ve done] a lot of work where its ones vs. ones, twos vs. twos, and even getting some young guys involved because at this level, you never know who you’re going to need.”
One big difference between this bye week and the last one is the Hokies’ confidence level. In Week 4, Virginia Tech was coming off of two underwhelming performances against inferior opponents.
This time, the Hokies rode into the bye week with 3 straight victories. Two of those wins even came against ACC opponents who were favored to beat them.
Junior punter Oscar Bradburn said the Duke game was eye-opening for the team as a whole. He attributes much of Virginia Tech’s recent success to the way they responded after that loss.
“Coming off that kind of abysmal performance against Duke at home when we kind of got our pants pulled down, a lot of us met up the day after, especially the leadership council guys,” Bradburn said. “We just spoke about where we’re standing right now and where we need to get to the rest of the season if we’re going to have success. I think that was really important.”
In some ways, the Hokies trust that the best way to come out of this bye week may be to not change too much. After three straight wins, the players are looking to keep the competitive edge they have built up.
“Honestly, if you all watch us play, you see that it’s a different team,” sophomore wide receiver Tre Turner said. “We’ve got a big game ahead of us and we’re all ready to play, so we come to practices working hard every day. It’s not like we change what we do.”
It seems that every player and coach in the organization can recognize the improvement of this Virginia Tech team. According to linebacker Dax Hollifield, that is what allowed this latest bye week to be more productive.
“I feel like going into the bye week last time, we just weren’t focused,” Hollifield said. “We’ve gotten a lot smarter and grown up a lot since that happened.”
The Hokies have a prime opportunity to prove their focus this weekend against #16 Notre Dame. They hope to prove that this latest bye week has been their best one yet.