Justin Fuente Press Conference Comments After 45-10 Loss to #3 Clemson

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Dec 06, 2020
Photo Credit: ACC Media

Here's our full transcription of the press conference for Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente after the Hokies lost to #3 Clemson 45-10.

Opening Statement

"First of all, congratulations to Clemson, they got a fine team. I think that tailback, (Travis) Etienne, and the quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) are the best two they've ever had there, at least since I've been watching them. Those guys are really, really talented.

"Obviously, our plan was to try and keep our defense off the field and try to hold the ball as long as humanly possible. That didn't mean going into the game that we wouldn't try and throw the ball. It just meant we were trying to limit the number of possessions. When you play it like that, you have a chance for it to go a bunch of different ways. I thought that was the best chance for us to win. I still believe that.

"As far as the quarterback situation was, I'll tell you what I know. The first series, Hendon (Hooker) didn't hold us in the huddle and he dropped the snap so we took him out to settle him down for one series planning on for one series, and Braxton (Burmeister) went in and led us to a touchdown so we kept Braxton in the game.

"Braxton got knocked out of the game, he did not get knocked out, he got injured and couldn't go back in, and we put Hendon back in. He dropped a snap and we were going to put him back in and the trainer came to me and told me he was 'cold'. I don't know if there's something more significant or serious or what with that. I've never seen that before or heard of it before so I don't know any more than that.

"Knox (Kadum) went in there and competed his tail off. I was proud of the way he went out there and hung in there and competed. I have no idea what that means moving forward, but I'm just telling you, he did a good job going in there.

"Defensively, obviously we had our hands full but our guys competed their tails off. Trying to keep them fresh and off the field I thought was beneficial, and there in lies the games."

Q: "Justin, going back to right before halftime. You get the ball back with 55 seconds left. You have the 3 timeouts..."

"So did they, they had three timeouts also so they just ran through us like we weren't even out there so my first thought was 'do not roll our tails out there and throw 3 incompletions and give them the ball right back'. So when we ran the ball, busted one run; we took a chance to throw it in the end zone. I'd do it again playing these guys.

"Now if we were playing somebody else in a different situation, you could play it a bunch of different ways but when you watch those guys and they got their timeouts, the first thing is not having your defense have to take the field again with Trevor Lawrence and all that comes with that. So we ran the ball, popped one out, took a shot in the end zone."

Q: "I don't know what your angle was on the hail mary that got tipped past. Did you think for a second that (Raheem) Blackshear had gotten in on that play?"

"I felt like when I saw the replay, and I don't know Andy, I'm sure you guys probably saw it more than I did, the one look I saw on the big board, I didn't think he was in, but that was just the one look I saw. I mean it was close but, y'all tell me, was it pretty evident that he wasn't in? I don't know."

Q: "I think he was short, wasn't sure what your vantage was on that."

Q: "Justin, about Hendon. You mentioned that he kind of didn't hold the huddle. When you see a quarterback fumble two clean snaps, are you worried about him? Do you feel he looked off in general? What was your kind of view of it with the two fumbles?"

"He's had some issues in the past with catching the snap which is kind of an odd thing for him. He's got great height and coordination, and big ole strong hands, and was a good basketball player but occasionally, he has had some issues with that. So I don't know, I didn't feel like he was off or anything. I don't know what to tell you."

Q: "With the gameplan, how much work does it take to work on that pace with the huddle. It's a completely different operation than you kind of normally do. How much does that take, is it just the matter of a couple meetings or do you work on that during the week? How much goes into that that change of pace that you guys used tonight?"

"Well essentially as the head coach, I say this is the best way for us to win the game, and those guys go about ironing out the details. It takes a little bit of work, a little bit of practice. You don't have a lot of time at the line of scrimmage to think about the way Clemson calls their defense and the way (Brent) Venables does things. He wants to see the formation and where the back is set, and hold his call at late as possible. So we eliminated all signals, or most signals, and tried to get up there a little bit later, and shift a couple times and motion to try and negate some of that.

"I thought it really worked well for us, but you do run a little bit of a risk there because you're taking the line of scrimmage with less time so you're not getting to check, you're not getting to do some thing that maybe you historically have been able to do at the line of scrimmage."

Q: "Do you have any update on Tre Turner's status going forward here?"

"He did not practice much this week. The plan was for him to dress and see how he felt. He was unable to go. If I was guessing, I would guess that he'd be okay next week. He's had two weeks but I don't know that for a fact."

Q: "Yeah Justin, a couple of big penalties on Brock Hoffman. I'm curious on what you saw on those and what impact you thought they had on the game?"

"I thought they were unforced errors, and you can't have those when you play teams like this. I didn't see either one, but I knew he had two penalties. He's probably not very happy with me right now. I understand that, but we can't do those things."

Q: "And in terms of Khalil Herbert, he seems to be getting healthier each week. What did you think from sideline evaluation of how he played tonight?"

"I thought Khalil was good. He's been really steady when he's been healthy and he seems to be able to kind of pick his way through there and feels comfortable. I don't know how to describe it, you guys watch it like sometimes he just stops and goes, and stops and goes, but he seems to be a pretty effective guy for us. I thought he played well."

Q: "Justin, you guys gave up 195 yards passing, 114 of those came on 2 passes. That's a season low for him when he's attempted 10 or more passes. How do you feel you did against him, Trevor Lawrence?"

"Probably as well as could be expected. We tried to mix up the looks. The problem obviously is they can run the ball. Travis Etienne is different than everyone else on the field out there, but I thought our guys competed their tails off. They were fresh when they were out there. The plan of trying to keep them fresh and keep guys rolling in and letting us try to attack a little bit and try to limit those explosive plays was sound. I'm kind of rambling here answering your question. I thought, by and large, we defended a few deep balls, and we let at least one get over our head."

Q: "I confess I didn't see if they came back, but I don't think they did. (Christian) Darrisaw and (Silas) Dzansi, what are their statuses?"

"I don't know what their status is quite honestly. We were pulling guys out of the game. I asked Christian if he was okay and he said 'yes'. I haven't seen Silas yet. I don't have a very good answer for you to be honest."

Q: "Hey Justin, you might not be able to answer this. Hendon came back out, it looked like he was sort of lurching forward randomly almost like it was some sort of tick or something, and what you're saying is as far as you know is the trainer just said he was 'cold', that was he responding to the cold or?"

"Well, in the middle of the game, I said 'what's the deal?' He said 'he's cold, we're dealing with it.' So I can't give you any more diagnosis than that. That's why I said I don't know if there's something serious or not serious or what."

Q: "Time will tell?"

"Yeah, I just don't know."

Q: "James Mitchell on punt returns. Did you just feel like, didn't want to go with Khalil or Tayvion (Robinson). How did you decide on James?"

"Well we've been working quite a few people back there. Tre, a couple weeks ago, went down so we felt best about Kak (William Kakavitsas) and James. We've been working those guys and that's who we felt like we should put back there."

Q: "You were a quarterback. How difficult of a situation is it to be thrown in the game for Knox, who was the fourth team quarterback just one week ago against the #3 team in the country? What is the challenge like for him and did you get a sense of what it was like for him at all?"

"It's an immense challenge, but the thing about Knox is he's a competitor. I'm sure he was nervous, but he went out there and competed, and I am proud of him. We saw something in Knox in high school. He's still developing obviously, but I think as he continues to work and get better, he's got a chance to be a productive, Division I quarterback here at Virginia Tech so I'm excited about him and his future. Was it an odd situation for him? Certainly, but it's proof positive that you just never know when they're going to turn to you and throw you in there."

Q: "This is the team's second four-game losing streak in three years. Big picture, do you feel like the administration has faith in you guys to kind of turn this around here, know the context of this season? How are you kind of feeling about the direction?

"Certainly, I'm not going to tell you I feel great, we just lost. I feel great about what we're doing and where we're going. And the context of this season, you guys know, I'm not going to sit up here and whine about that. I'm not going to, but yeah I feel great, it's time for us to get ready for Virginia."

Q: "Yeah Justin, one more on the quarterbacks. You said you went to Braxton, maybe for a series. You were impressed with what he did. What did you like, what did you see, and what were some things that you can build off of maybe with Braxton?"

"Well he stepped up in the pocket and had the nice pass to Tayvion. I felt like that for us to be productive, we didn't have to stay on the chains, but we're going to have to hit some plays and to me that was a pretty big play kind of slid up in the pocket and hit Tayvion. So I don't know, I felt good about Braxton for a long time. I've made no bones about it with you all that I feel good about him, his talent, and what he can do playing ball. It's a shame that he had to come out."

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