Virginia Tech’s game at No. 22 Duke this past weekend exceeded expectations, as the Hokies beat the ranked Blue Devils 31-14 in Durham. Coach Justin Fuente took the podium on Monday to speak about preparation for No. 6 Notre Dame this upcoming weekend. Here are the notes from the press conference.
Fuente started off the presser by thanking the fans for traveling down to Durham for the game on Saturday and he spoke about honoring former Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer. A monument dedicated to Coach Beamer will be unveiled on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. on Moody Plaza in the Southwest corner of Lane Stadium.
“Congratulations to Coach; it’s a well-deserved tribute to the man who set a high standard here,” said Fuente.
Notre Dame is a complete team
The Fighting Irish enter the game coming off a win at home against No. 7 Stanford. Notre Dame is 5-0 on the season with two wins over ranked opponents and one win on the road, at Wake Forest.
“This is the most complete and talented team we’ve certainly played to date. They really have things clicking in all areas of the game,” Fuente said. “They made a change at quarterback and the last two weeks have been very explosive. Defensively, through the entire year they’ve played elite defense, so it’s going to be a tremendous challenge for our team.”
Backup Quarterbacks, including Ryan Willis, are essential
There have been many backup quarterbacks entering the fray throughout the past few weeks and Fuente was asked about how he thinks backup quarterbacks across the nation have been performing.
“The best I can tell, they’ve all played pretty well. It’s a really important position, the most important in this sport, and it doesn’t mean if you’ve got a good one that you’re guaranteed to win but it can certainly cover up some deficiencies if you’re really good there and having another guy ready to play is paramount.”
Speaking of backup quarterbacks, Ryan Willis stepped in for injured Josh Jackson this past weekend and completed 17 of 27 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start as a Hokie.
“He played pretty well. He could’ve put a little more air on a couple of balls maybe but he was pretty in-control and felt comfortable with the looks. We had a few mistakes though – we had a poor exchange that could’ve hurt us on a third and long; we had a couple series’ there in the second half, where it’s not all Ryan’s fault, but just offensively we didn’t give ourself a chance to have success. For him to get in there and play against a quality opponent like Duke and play as well as he did, I think it was a nice performance for him.”
Wide receiver corps is improving
“I think they’re in the process of getting better. We have not been good on the perimeter the last two years in terms of blocking and playing without the ball,” Fuente said about the wide receivers on his team. “We just have not been a physical presence on the perimeter the last two years. It’s been a huge point of emphasis and I do see us taking pride in how we play out there.”
Fuente mentioned he was pleased with Eric Kumah’s blocking, especially on Dalton Keene’s touchdown catch and run, and that he was pleased with Sean Savoy.
“I think about Sean Savoy – he didn’t catch a ball last week but he played well. He played well on punt return and has taken pride in that and he played well without the ball in his hands which is something that helps our football team.”
“I think there’s an overall mentality that’s improving there – it’s not where it needs to be but it’s improving,” Fuente said.
The Notre Dame series is a marquee matchup
“I do think it’s obviously an attractive opponent you can play home and away. It’s a marquee non-conference opponent and it’s been good – it’s just a little odd how irregular it is in the schedule and where they sometimes fall in the calendar,” Fuente said.
Fuente noted that two years ago, when Tech was on the verge of winning the Coastal Division and lost to Georgia Tech at home, everyone in that locker room wanted to play Virginia, but Notre Dame stood between them and their rival.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book playing well under center
Ian Book, the junior quarterback from El Dorado Hills, Calif., has been the starter in the last two games for the Fighting Irish and has jump-started the offense. Book has completed 52 of his 70 passes, a 74.3% completion rate, and has thrown for 616 yards and 7 touchdowns in three games.
“I jumped to a conclusion before I even turned the film on was, now, all of a sudden, they must be throwing the ball better or more frequently,” Fuente said. “He’s been mobile back there; he scrambled, took the ball and got a first down or hit an open receiver; he’s made a lot of plays moving around, kind of within the confines of the offense.”
Book has 26 carries for 87 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
“He’s really boosting them because they can run the football, they do have talented guys on the outside, they are very good on the offensive line and now they have a guy back there playing at a really high level,” Fuente said.
Defensive line is standout for the Irish
Notre Dame’s defense has been solid so far this season, allowing only 94 points in five games for an average of 23.5 allowed a game.
“They have them flying to the football; they are aggressive and making it hard for people to run the football, and everything builds off of that,” Fuente said. “People haven’t had much success with that and they’ve gotten behind the chains and have been able to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback.”
Bud’s defensive line taking pressure off secondary, dropping 8 and rushing 3
“I think it’s probably like everything else – a little bit is good, too much is probably bad for you,” Fuente said about the defensive line. “I think we’ll be able to mix that in with what we are doing and combine it with things we have traditionally done. It will certainly be a part of what we do.”
Tech played much of the game on defense rushing just three linemen and putting eight players back in pass coverage.
“The two things that can hurt that are the quarterback standing back there in the pocket all day and them being able to run the football. When you take those things away in that defense, you’re pretty much in control.”