We all remember Friday night, September 27, 2019. The Hokies had a rare Friday night game at Lane Stadium. As usual, the atmosphere was electric for a night game and we were all expecting the Hokies to improve to 3-1 on the season, and evening their mark in the ACC to 1-1.
Well, it didn’t quite work out that way.
After the Hokies took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, things went downhill fast and Tech ended up suffering its worst loss in 45 years, falling to the Blue Devils 45-10. Look, this wasn’t a loss to Clemson, this was Duke.......football.
No disrespect to Duke, but Virginia Tech does not get blown out, at home, against Duke. That led many in Hokie Nation saying changes needed to made immediately. And for good reason. The Hokies had/have the worst recruiting class in the ACC for 2020 and fans were left searching the schedule for games this team could win. Another bowl appearance was out of the question.
Quietly, coaches and players weren’t panicking and went back to work. Head coach Justin Fuente apologized to his team and they had his back.
The next week, the Hokies went to Miami and no one expected them to win. Fuente made a change at quarterback, bringing in redshirt sophomore Hendon Hooker and the Hokies won a thriller in Coral Gables, 42-35.
They returned home and looked pedestrian in a 34-17 win over FCS Rhode Island to move to 4-2. North Carolina came to Blacksburg on October 19 and the Hokies won an instant classic, 43-41, that went into six overtimes until redshirt freshman Quincy Patterson won it for the Hokies.
This game showed not only the mental toughness of this team, but the grit often mentioned by Fuente and Bud Foster, too. Things didn’t go Virginia Tech’s way, but they kept fighting. Patterson forced into action, made some big throws when needed and showed off his amazing wheels in relief of Hooker.
The Hokies hit the road the following game and outplayed Notre Dame in South Bend before losing a 21-20 heartbreaker with less than 30 seconds left. How did the young Hokies respond? By returning to Blacksburg and facing a 7-1 Wake Forest team and playing their best game of the season in a 36-17 win.
After Virginia Tech's win over Wake Forest on Saturday, Bud Foster said his defense has developed an AD--"After Duke"--mentality over the past five games. pic.twitter.com/UWwtkaWtp1— Anthony Romano (@ARomanoWDBJ) November 10, 2019
Now, at 6-3, 3-2 in the ACC, the Hokies are headed for a showdown with Virginia in just over two weeks for the ACC Coastal title.
Two big hurdles stand in Tech’s way; Georgia Tech this week and Pitt next week. Georgia Tech’s triple option bewildered the Hokies for years, but Paul Johnson is gone and so is that offense. The Hokies will face a rebuilding Yellow Jackets in Atlanta this weekend. Pitt thoroughly dominated and embarrassed the Hokies last year. I firmly believe that is one Fuente and Foster have circled on their respective calendars.
Fuente and Foster deserve credit for this turnaround. This is a young team that has quietly gotten better each week. Fans are accustomed to Foster getting the defense turned around, but the move to Hooker, who missed the game at Notre Dame with a knee injury, completely changed the offense.
Hooker has yet to turn the ball over and his presence on offense has re-energized the running game. In addition, a young and talented offensive line is coming together and becoming an anchor for this team. As of now, the Hokies are starting two sophomores and three freshmen along the offensive line.
Bryan Hudson and Doug Nester, a pair of true freshmen, are as advertised, while the left side of Christian Darrisaw and Lecitus Smith—the sophomores—have been outstanding. Sophomore Silas Dzansi and redshirt freshman Luke Tenuta have both played right tackle. Dzansi has been out while Tenuta has played recently and the unit hasn’t missed a beat.
More O line DOMINANCE. Watch Keene, Tanuta and Canon push Wake line 10 ft left. Hooker sells he has the ball pulling LBs right. Clease hangs out behind maroon WALL, slides right and steps into AIR. Shakes his head walking into end zone. TEXTBOOK! #CRANCAM pic.twitter.com/0ssJNDKEWc— John Cran (@johncran11) November 12, 2019
It’s an amazing in-season turnaround for this group. Where we stood at the end of September was not good. Now, we can be excited about Virginia Tech football again. Fuente has shown true leadership this year and you’re never tested until you face adversity. This team has faced plenty of adversity in the past calendar year and are finally getting the results.
Buckle up, Hokies.