Hokies coach on facing Clemson: "It’s like defusing a bomb"
|2017-09-25 17:05:46.0- -||
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente knows the margin of error is thin hosting the No. 2 Clemson Tigers Saturday night in Lane Stadium.
“When you’re playing the talent that we’re going up to, it’s like defusing a bomb,” Fuente said in his Monday press conference. “Just one small snip of the wire that’s incorrect – and boom! You blow your hands off, that’s just how talented and good they are.”
The Hokies and Tigers went down to the wire in the 2016 ACC Championship game in Orlando. Fuente’s team rallied from down 35-14 to cut the Clemson lead to one score with just under six minutes left. Their shot at tying things up in the final minutes ended in a Cordrea Tankersley interception at the Clemson 14 yard-line.
At the ACC Kickoff in July, Fuente told the Daily Press that the loss was one that “still just kills me because we had it," adding, "I shouldn’t say that because that’s not right. We didn’t have it. We had a chance, and we didn’t come through, and that bothers me."
Two 4-0 teams meet under the lights this time and the second-year Hokies coach anticipates a battle.
“You’re not going to be able to get away with much of anything, if you make a mistake they’re going to make you pay,” Fuente said. “Making sure that we’re on point with everything we’re doing, crystal clear in our directives and our assignment being able to play well because everything will be difficult. A first down will be difficult, a defensive stop will be difficult, punting the ball and covering the punt will be difficult.
“It’s just all amplified…every step you take is amplified when you play talent like this.”
More from Fuente
(Transcript provided by Virginia Tech athletics)
Overall outlook on the game: Obviously a fun week this week, in terms of all of the things going on outside of the football game with College GameDay coming here. I’m sure Virginia Tech will do a fantastic job welcoming them and provide a great environment. Great opportunity to show off our community and our school. Our responsibility is the game and preparing for a very talented Clemson football team, defending national champions. It’s our first conference game, we put the non-conference slate behind us. We’ve got two conference games here and then a bye. Really talked about resetting everything and getting ready for conference play. This is just our first conference game; I know that it is a big stage and there are a lot of things that come with that but it’s the beginning of our conference play and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
On how returning players took last year’s ACC Championship loss: “I don’t know. I haven’t asked them, we won’t talk about it. I think everybody handles those things differently on an individual basis. Last year my message to our team was that was last year’s team, last year’s Virginia Tech team vs last year’s Clemson team. This is a completely different situation. We’ve got guys that played in that game that are no longer here and so do they. So we won’t use it as a reference point for this week.”
On what stands out about Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables and his style of defense: “Well I think the first thing that stands out is their talent level on the defensive line, it’s pretty exceptional. Attacking, they’re not a sit back and just try to keep the ball in front of you defense. It’s been my limited experience with him and its been limited that they’ve been an attacking defense for some time. They force turnovers, try to get in the backfield, penetrate on the defensive line. It’s not a read and react kind of situation. It’s a pin your ears back and try and create havoc.”
On what impact College Gameday has on the team: “I mean I think it’s great there coming to our school, I think its great exposure for our community and for Virginia Tech. I think it’s neat that they’re back, it’s been a little while since they’ve been here but what affect it’ll have on our team, none, we’ll be at the hotel in Roanoke. We’ve got to get prepared for the game and It’s a late kickoff and we’re going to handle all day Saturday without playing until late at night.”
On what the game means for the Virginia Tech program: “No, I see it as our first conference game. I know it’s highly ranked and a big stage and all of those sorts of things but I see it as our first conference game against the defending National Champions at our place. We’re in our second year here we’ve had one recruiting class. Coach (Dabo) Swinney is in his eighth or ninth year or something like that and obviously, they’ve been very accomplished, not just the last couple years but the last several years. It’ll be a great opportunity to play a great football team, other than that’s about the context I see with it.”
On Clemson QB Kelly Bryant: “Well one thing and I don’t know the young man but I think it’s neat that we’ve got a kid that waited his turn. Was behind a fantastic player and practiced I’m assuming every day, continued to develop his craft. Was behind maybe the best quarterback in college football for a couple years there and now has his chance to play and shine and today's instant gratification society we don’t see that enough in my opinion. I think it speaks volumes about him and now he’s getting his chance and the thing that I notice about him, while he is an accomplished passer he obviously understands what they’re doing. It seems to me while it’s his first year playing I think he has quite a few reps under his belt and he’s a big physical presence out there. I mean this is a big strong runner and 220 pound athlete back there. When he does want to run the ball falls forward. (He) can pose a tremendous problem for us.”
On what Clemson does up front on the defensive line: “Well I would stop saying it’s just talent. They are well coached and disciplined and all of those sorts of things but you don’t have the success that they have without those sorts of thigs. The size and power jumps out at you. They’ve got almost an embarrassment of riches over there on the defensive line and I know some of the guys over there that they’ve recruited and they’re not on the two deep roster. I mean they are just really talented. There’s an element of an attacking style, there is an element of fundamentals and power and they do a great job scheme wise. You don’t want to get behind the chains on these guys they’ll scheme you up from a blitz standpoint and a pure rush standpoint and dropping guys into coverage.
On the drive in to gamedays in Blacksburg: “Well I think the thing that hits you is you go all week practicing and preparing and there’s nobody at practice there’s nobody around and you hear all of the excitement but when you pull into town it’s your first chance to actually get some perspective on it. When you’re pulling in, and it’s the same on the road in a big game, and you see the tents and the RV’s and the people everywhere and it’s like the first realization that all of this talk was about something. That there really are people behind the chatter and the excitement of the game and that’s a neat thing. It’s fun to work at a place, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, fun to work at a place where people value the hard work that our kids put in and show their support to them by showing up and cheering them on. The same thing is though we’ll have to get prepared for the game regardless of how many people are there or how many television sets are tuned in. We’ll let those people worry about that, we’ve got enough to worry about with the Clemson Tigers.”
On handling the hype and distractions of the game: “Well, (Assoc. AD) Pete (Moris) is going to do a great job of eliminating a bunch of them but it’ll be business as usual for us. We shouldn’t change our schedule or our focus because of those things. I’m a firm believer in the process and routine regardless of the opponent and the stage and that’s just been my message. We’re playing a great football team don’t get me wrong but the game is the same it’s the stage that is different and the stage is not our responsibility. So our job is to worry about ourselves and get ourselves prepared to play.”
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