Virginia Tech started the 2018 football season 1-0 with a statement win over previously No. 19 Florida State on Monday night. The Hokies’ defense came up huge, holding the Seminoles to just three points and forcing five turnovers.
With that game complete, the Hokies turn their attention to FCS opponent William & Mary for their home opener. The short week changes the way Tech will prepare for the Tribe as head coach Justin Fuente noted in Wednesday’s press conference. Here are some notes from yesterday regarding the Week 1 win and what to expect in Week 2.
Fuente Thanks Hokie Nation
If you watched Monday night’s game on TV, you could audibly hear chants of “Let’s go Hokies!” coming through your speakers towards the end of the night. Florida State fans had left in masses, leaving Doak Campbell Stadium full of the Tech faithful that made the trip south. Fuente had praise for those fans that were willing to make the journey to support the team.
“Thanks to everybody that made the trip to Tallahassee,” Fuente said Wednesday. “We enjoyed what was left of the rest of that night and now we’re on to the challenge of getting ready to play in our home opener against William & Mary on a short week.”
Home Opener is Sold Out
As Virginia Tech gets ready to return to Blacksburg for the home opener, excitement is building among the fans. That excitement has turned into ticket sales with the athletic department announcing Wednesday that this weekend’s home opener is sold out.
“I understand our home opener is a sellout. Our kids will be excited to know that and hopefully we can have a great week of practice and preparation for our home opener,” Fuente said. “Our kids will be excited to play in front of our own fans.”
Practice Gets Cut During Short Week
Going from a Monday night game to a regular Saturday game means a lot less time to practice than usual. As Virginia Tech gets prepared to face William and Mary this weekend, Fuente is using a practice model he’s used at TCU and Memphis. He says it’s similar to having a Saturday game followed by a Thursday night game, just with the days shifted around.
“Our kids yesterday were rest and recovery and then today we’ll go out there and have what is our Tuesday practice minus a little bit,” Fuente said. “There’s not nearly as much physical work.”
Fuente emphasized that this week’s practices will feature less physicality and focus more on getting the players feeling good and making sure they know what they’re supposed to be doing heading into Saturday’s game.
True Freshman Christian Darrisaw Impresses in Debut
After projected starter Silas Dzansi suffered from cramping in the week leading up to the FSU game, the coaching staff put Christian Darrisaw in the left tackle spot to open the season. Fuente was impressed with the way Darrisaw performed in his first college game.
“I think he did pretty well,” Fuente said. “Candidly, the fact that we played a true freshman at left tackle and that we’re not answering questions about why we gave up 25 sacks, you know, I think he did a pretty darn good job against that defensive line.”
Going forward, Dzansi and Darrisaw will continue to compete for the starting job. Fuente said that he anticipates for both of them to see playing time.
Trevon Hill Eligible, Improved Over Offseason
One of the biggest question marks for the Virginia Tech defense going into last week was Trevon Hill’s eligibility. During the broadcast, the ESPN commentators went so far as to say that Hill had to get an academic issue cleared up before he could play. Fuente dismissed that remark, saying it didn’t come from him.
“They didn’t get that from me,” Fuente said. “Basically, Trevon Hill was completely eligible to play. The other guys, like I told you after the game, had practiced a little bit more or a little bit better, so we felt good about playing him, we just started the other guys and rotated him in.”
Hill had an impact in the game, making four tackles including three for loss.
Fuente spoke on how Hill has gotten better in the offseason, especially in terms of strength.
“He’s improved in the weight room. He’s added, I don’t know what the official numbers are, I just know looking at him he looks different,” Fuente said. “He’s always been a lighter end and we don’t typically play with huge defensive ends here either, but he’s improved his strength.”
Hill also had two sacks in the game, which left Fuente particularly impressed with his performance.
“He’s continued to work hard and I think it showed, certainly flashes of that in the game,” Fuente said.
Linebackers Perform Well, Have Room for Improvement
This year’s linebacker corps is the youngest group on the field for the Hokies with three sophomores starting. Their youth didn’t hold them back too much on Monday, though. Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby each finished the game with seven tackles while Khalil Ladler made two tackles and recovered a fumble.
While Fuente liked the way they played, he acknowledged that they have things to work on in the future.
“Their focus needs to be on continuing improvement,” Fuente said. “They did a very good job. I’m not taking away from their performance, either Dylan or Rayshard, but there’s plenty of things for us to coach off of.”
The linebackers aren’t the only group that has areas to work on, but Fuente said they are representative of where the team stands after the first game of the season.
“I think the linebacker corps is kind of a microcosm of the entire team right now in terms of continuing to improve,” Fuente said. “I was pleased with the physicality and the effort and all those sorts of things that have to be a given anyway for you to have a chance to succeed, especially playing linebacker.”
William & Mary a Formidable Foe
While the Hokies’ next opponent is a FCS program, the team isn’t overlooking what the Tribe can do. Fuente paid attention to the Tribe's season-opening win against Bucknell and he knows what to expect from one of the top FCS teams.
“It was a low-scoring game, but it seemed like they had the ball the whole game,” Fuente said. “They are sound in their assignments and their techniques. They know what they’re doing, they know their adjustments. You can tell that they’re a well-coached, disciplined football team that can cause you problems if you don’t execute yourself.”
The last time Virginia Tech played William & Mary was in 2014, a 34-9 victory for the Hokies.
Also, of note, longtime William & Mary head coach Jimmye Laycock will be retiring following the 2018 season, his 39th coaching the Tribe.
“Coach Laycock obviously has done a fantastic job at William & Mary for a long time,” Fuente said. “I talked a little about this on the conference call but just a tremendous amount of respect for himself and his program, the longevity and consistency that he’s had.”
Saturday’s game will kick off at 2 p.m. at Lane Stadium.
Photo Credit: Jake Roth
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