With little time to dwell on an upset loss on the road at Syracuse, the Hokies turn their attention towards Miami on a short week
After being upset as a three touchdown favorite on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome, the Hokies are looking to pick up the pieces and move on from their first conference loss of the season. There’s obviously little time to dwell on their shortcomings in upstate New York, which reeked of a letdown game ahead of their Thursday night home match-up this week against Miami. For old-school Hokies fans, this upset was a microcosm of what kept alums and die-hards alike in the early 1990s when this former Big East rivalry was at its peak. The Hokies never play well at the Carrier Dome, ever.
Despite the upset, there is still optimism after arguably the team’s worst performance of the season to date. Even though the offense fumbled the ball away five times against Tennessee at the Battle at Bristol, there was much to be encouraged about, especially offensively, as the Hokies seemed to move the ball at will against the Vols. The loss to Syracuse, however, seemed to leave a much more bitter taste in the collective mouths of Hokies fans, as this was a team that should have been beaten if Justin Fuente’s squad played up to how they’re capable of playing.
On Monday afternoon, Justin Fuente, Bud Foster, and quarterback Jerod Evans spoke to the media about the slip-up against the Orange, and how the team is feeling with a short week ahead in advance of Thursday night’s primetime match-up in Blacksburg against the Hurricanes.
Head Coach Justin Fuente
"“Obviously, we are coming off a tough performance last week. Credit to Syracuse and Coach Babers for the job that they did. We had a good meeting yesterday. Kids got out, ran and lifted. We had a little team meeting. We don’t have much time to dwell on that. We have to move forward. It’s the same message we would’ve had had we won the ball game. We have to turn the page and get ready to go against a very talented Miami team coming into town. It should be a great atmosphere on Thursday night. I heard quite a bit about Thursday nights in Blacksburg, Virginia. I am looking forward to taking part in it, and I am confident our kids will be ready to go. We have a long way to go, and a short time to get there. We have a lot of work to get done this week.”"
On if there is a secret to preparation in short weeks
"“If there is anything to it at all, we played a bunch of Thursday night games at TCU while I was an assistant. I don’t remember how many. I paid close attention to how we went about things there, so at least I was able to formulate an opinion on how I wanted to do it when I got to Memphis. Obviously, as we got better at Memphis, we had more of those Thursday night opportunities. We had better teams, as we were there a little bit longer. I don’t know if there is a secret to it. I know a bunch of different people that do it a bunch of different ways. I have conviction about how I would like to it in terms of planning the week just because I have been through it a few times.”"
On if finding consistency is one of the hardest things to do as a coach working with young men and the parity of college football
"“I think there are several factors to that. One, there is a lot of equality through college football. There are a couple teams that are maybe heads and shoulders about everybody else, and then there are a bunch of teams that are fighting, scratching and crawling trying to climb that ladder. The other thing that I see, you used to be removed from a bunch of that. You could remove your team from much of that communication, and that is not the world we live in anymore. It used to be much easier to insulate them from all of the talk or chatter. Now, that is virtually impossible. As a coach, you just used to keep them away from it. Now, you have to continually address how to handle it. You can’t keep them away from it because it is all over the place. That’s difficult. It’s hard to do. It’s hard on everyone. It’s not just kids. It’s hard on adults, too. Everyone likes to feel good and have good things said about you, but you have to understand that it ultimately comes down to your performance every Saturday.”"
On if he likes the extra challenge of preparing on a short week
"“I always enjoy the challenge every week, but the short weeks are certainly different. I told my wife when I got home that it’s going to be a long, short week. That’s just the way it is. We have two hungry football teams that are going to play out here. They are very well coached. Obviously, they have a fine tradition and history, as do we. Everyone in our program is looking forward to it.”"
It was pretty apparent that Fuente came away from the loss to Syracuse disappointed, but not too beaten up overall with how it’ll dictate the team’s success the rest of the season. It’s clear that both he and his players understand the urgency of preparation on a short week, which will hopefully manifest itself on Thursday night in Blacksburg.
Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster
On if things looked different when he watched film on Sunday
"“No. The kids played hard. We gave a couple big plays away. You take three plays out of the game – the first touchdown pass, the halfback pass or the double pass and off a penalty they threw to the tight end down the middle of the field – I think that was 178 yards in three plays. They had 300 yards, and the other 97, they had 338 yards, so it came up to four yards a play. Against that kind of offense, you are going to get that. You can’t have those big plays. The kids played hard. If you eliminate the big, explosive plays, they really only had one drive on us when it’s all said and done. I’m not saying that this is a consolation because I still think that we didn’t play as sharp as we needed to. We still played hard, and that’s a tough environment to play. We talked as a staff, and we played like we wanted to win. Syracuse played like they needed to win. That’s the difference right there. We have to go play this weekend like we need to win. That’s the bottom line. The kids played hard.That style of offense is hard to smother people. If you play man coverage, they are going to isolate you to the field and go 50-50 balls. You all have seen that against East Carolina with people like that in the past. We tried to mix up a couple different coverages, and it’s going to aggravate you. I thought we did some things to drop eight. I saw that their quarterback rushed for a 100 yards. They had a couple quarterback draws that were adequate plays. The quarterback scrambled, and we were dropping eight sometimes. We had some good rushes on him. We also stopped a bunch of running quarterbacks over time, too. That’s the nature of the game nowadays. When they are spreading you out, they are spreading your defenders out. If you want to play a variety of coverages, if the quarterback is a running threat, then it is an issue when it’s all said and done. Hopefully, at times you can keep him contained, but their guy did a nice job. I thought he played his best football game this past Saturday.”"
On why Syracuse was so successful on third and fourth down
"“A lot of short yardage, a lot of quarterback scrambling. The quarterback had a couple good gains. We just need to be a little bit more aggressive in some of those situations. You had empty, we were in man. We gave up the inside a couple of times, which is what you’re not supposed to do. We brought pressure. We played coverage. We did it all. It was just kind of a mix right there when it was all said and done. They hit their share, and we did enough good things. What you all saw the first couple weeks, that’s pretty elite. I don’t think we can do that every week to be honest with you. That’s part of it. I would like to say that we want to go out and smother people every week, but that’s not what you do. I felt like Syracuse had some dynamic receivers going into the game. I thought they were a little bit of a mix of East Carolina and North Carolina as far as talent, probably even a little bit more explosive after playing against them. I thought No. 3 was (Ryan) Switzer, but with juice. I felt that going in, and he showed that in the game.”"
On Miami’s quarterback Brad Kaaya
"“He is a drop-back style guy. He has a good arm. He is a pro style guy that can throw it from hatch to the sideline. He has arm strength. He is a big-time talent.”"
On what Miami does on the outside for his DBs to worry about
"“Miami has always had great team speed, particularly at the skill positions. I don’t see any difference right now. You have a couple core guys that can take you deep, and you have some core guys that can create big plays after the catch. Not just throwing it vertical, but they can get into some quick screens and things of that nature. They have the ability to run after the catch. They like their tight ends, and I think they are extremely talented players. They will split them out and try to create mismatches. They are big players in that 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 range that can run very well. They will use a lot of 12 personnel in three-to-four wide looks. Then their running backs. They are going to give the ball to the backs, not just handing the ball off, but in check downs as well. They are just very explosive and talented in space. We have to do a great job in converging and taking away seams and lanes after the catch if they do get the ball out.”"
On the mood of the team
"“They were very disappointed, which is what you want it to be. They were very disappointed. That probably says it all. We are looking forward to it. The good thing is that today is Tuesday for us. Yesterday was Monday and Sunday all in one. It’s very short nights for us, but a short week, which is fine. We get to forget about that one and move forward, which is a good thing.”"
Foster acknowledged that his unit played hard, which nobody watching on Saturday could question, even despite the outcome not being in the team’s favor. The kryptonite of Bud Foster’s defense, whether he’ll admit it or not, has been the dual threat quarterback that can attack his man-to-man scheme, while also beating the blitz with the running game.
This once again manifested itself on Saturday, as Syracuse sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey threw for 311 yards and a score, while also running for 106 yards and a touchdown. With a more conventional drop-back passer coming to town in Brad Kaaya, the Hokies should be able to have a but more success if their assignments are sound.
If they have breakdowns however, Kaaya has the ability to pick the defense apart, as he’s shown for the better part of his last three seasons with the Hurricanes.
Quarterback Jerod Evans
On preparing for Miami on a short week
"“This is my first (quick) turnaround of my collegiate career so I’m pretty sure Coach Fuente will make sure we are very urgent as far as preparation, film study and out on the practice field. This is my first go around so we’ll see.”"
On whether Syracuse did something defensively that he hadn’t seen before
"“I don’t think they did anything I haven’t seen. Again, I play against our defense all the time so they didn’t show me anything new. They tried to cheat to Isiah (Ford) a lot more and tried to disguise that a little bit more and it got me a couple times.”"
On his rapport with TE Chris Cunningham in the Red Zone
"“I wouldn’t say when he’s in there it dictates who I throw it to, but my reads dictate and the coverages dictate who I throw it to it just so happens that its Chris Cunningham right now. I have good chemistry will all the guys that I’m throwing to.”"
Oh how much he’s seen of Miami’s defense
"“Today I will definitely be watching them, but just watching them on television they are very tenacious on the front seven. That front line, the front four have great athletes. That’s what jumps out to me but I’ll be watching them today.”"
This was undoubtedly Jerod Evans’ worst performance of the season on Saturday against Syracuse when taking into account his red zone interception and his fumble lost on the team’s final drive of the game.
In all fairness to Evans, his fumble was with little time remaining on the clock, and it would have taken a minor miracle for the team to come from two touchdowns down that late in the game. However, ball security is of utmost importance at this level, which Evans, when at his best, clearly understands.
Here’s hoping that he bounces back and plays the way that he’s capable in a redemption game against Miami.