After beating Duke 24-3 Saturday night, Virginia Tech's attention is on Saturday night's showdown with Miami. With the ACC Coastal on the line and both teams ranked in the top 13, this is the biggest game between these two teams in a long time.
Today, Justin Fuente spoke on a wide range of his topics at his weekly press conference. Here are some of the highlights.
Yosuah Nijman, Steven Peoples "Day-to-Day"
Starting left tackle Yosuah Nijman and regular running back Steven Peoples both suffered minor injuries during this weekend's game against Duke. Neither player returned after their injuries and for now, they're both "day-to-day" according to Justin Fuente when he was asked about Nijman.
“I would say that it’s kind of like Steven (Peoples). It’s just going to be a day-to-day thing," Justin Fuente said. "We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to go, like Steven. We’re probably work out some and rest some, and work out some and rest some, and see how it goes.”
Parker Osterloh stepped in and played well, but the Hokies would definitely prefer to have Nijman out there against Miami. Nijman didn't return Saturday with most assuming that was due to precautionary reasons, but it appears that Nijman's injury may be more serious than first thought.
Steven Peoples has been dealing with injuries for weeks now with this being the latest setback for the junior running back. Peoples hasn't been able to stay healthy since his big game against Old Dominion, limiting us from seeing how good Peoples can really be if he can stay healthy again for more than a few snaps.
The good news is that the Hokies have plenty of depth at RB so the loss of Peoples isn't significant to the offense. Not having Nijman would be much more significant Saturday night, but Fuente also has confidence in Parker Osterloh, especially after how he played against Duke.
Fuente Trusts Parker Osterloh
Parker Osterloh received significant playing time for the first time this season after Yosuah Nijman suffered an injury. When Osterloh came in, the senior offensive tackle was reliable for the Hokies and showed why Justin Fuente trusts him.
“I thought he did a good job, I really did," Justin Fuente said. "I was proud of him. It’s nice to have him back. We haven’t talked much about him, all the things that he’s been through to try and get back for this season. It’s been a long journey for him. It was nice, obviously that he’s back and then secondly, when called upon, he was ready to go out there and play. He’s obviously a guy we trust.”
That last comment about Fuente trusting Osterloh is significant and encouraging especially if the Hokies are without Nijman against Miami.
Osterloh likely would have had a better chance at earning a starting job if he didn't miss spring practice due to injuries, but the senior from Williamsburg has continued to fight for playing time and is earning it. Fuente also mentioned that the Hokies trust Osterloh to play tackle and guard and suggested that Osterloh may be the top backup offensive lineman now that he's healthy again.
Osterloh played well Saturday night, and the Hokies may need him to step up again this week against Miami. If so, Fuente trusts that Osterloh can step up and get the job done.
Fuente on Fourth Down Attempts in Field Goal Range
Twice in Saturday night's game, Justin Fuente decided to go for it on fourth down despite being in field goal range with one of those attempts coming in the first quarter before the heavy downpour started. When asked about his decisions to go for it on fourth down despite being in field goal range, this is what Fuente had to say.
“I don’t know that I’d read too much into my thoughts on our kicker in terms of our decisions," Fuente said. "We’re in that kind of area where we haven’t been incredibly efficient kicking field goals, in those longer areas, and we have a fourth and manageable situation. We have a lot of confidence in our defense, sometimes you can be a little bit more aggressive in those situations when you’re playing well on defense or you feel good about your defense. I’d say it was a combination of several of those things that we felt better going for it.”
Virginia Tech's strong defense has allowed for Justin Fuente to take some more risks knowing that the Hokies can get a stop and regain fairly good field positions. The Hokies also should have converted their first fourth down attempt, but Josh Jackson overthrew Cam Phillips on what could have been a touchdown pass.
However, it is definitely unusual to see Justin Fuente go for it on a fourth down with more than a yard or two to gain, especially in the first quarter with no score. While Fuente may say it's not worth reading into, it's hard not to do that especially given how this would have been a 40-yard field goal with no score on the board yet.
Going forward, we'll have to see if the Hokies go for it more often on fourth down when in field goal range with that possibly depending some on the play of Joey Slye.
Fuente on Miami Offense Without Mark Walton
Miami's offense suffered a significant loss earlier this season when they lost star RB Mark Walton for the year. Fuente said that the loss was significant, but has been impressed with Miami's response.
“Any time you lose a player of that caliber, it makes it difficult," Fuente said. "I think they’ve done a fantastic job of picking up the slack. All that being said, I would say he was the best player they had. He was really electric. They went out of their way to find different ways to get him the football both in the passing game and the running game. I’ve seen them collectively pick up the slack through their tight end, they have some young wide receivers, through their slot wide receiver who is a good player. Then obviously through the running game they put another guy back there towards the end of the game last week. I see them kind of as a group doing a pretty good job filling in for him.”
Travis Homer struggled last week against UNC, but he has shown some talent, especially against Georgia Tech when he had 20 carries for 170 yards and a touchdown. Homer has shown the potential to be a big time RB for Miami, but consistency has been an issue with an average of under 3 yards per carry last week against UNC and a solid but not great game against Syracuse.
VT has also done well at containing opposing running backs with Duke's Shaun Wilson being the latest example of this as he was held to 38 yards on 12 carries. Fuente knows that Miami has plenty of talent that can help fill the void, but Fuente also knows that Miami's offense isn't the same without their "best player", Mark Walton.
Fuente and VT Send Their Thoughts and Prayers to Logan Thomas
Justin Fuente was impressed with the move that the Buffalo Bills made to give Logan Thomas the game ball after Thomas suffered a major tragedy this past week.
“Coach McDermott with the Buffalo Bills gave Logan Thomas the game ball after the game the other day. Want to make sure Logan knows that the Hokie family has him and his family in our thoughts and prayers as they go through a real tough time. Thought it was a pretty neat move and neat reaction, maybe more importantly, by his teammates," Fuente said.
We here at The Tech Lunch Pail send our prayers to Logan and his family as they go through this tough time.
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