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Virginia Tech football: It was a tough loss, but the future remains bright

There are plenty of things to look forward to, but these next few months are critical for Justin Fuente and the Hokies.

Virginia Tech v Virginia
Hendon Hooker scored a TD in the third quarter of Virginia Tech’s loss to Virginia
Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

The last time the University of Virginia beat the Virginia Tech Hokies on the gridiron this site did not exist. In fact, a lot of things didn’t exist such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Yet, on Friday, the Wahoos finally took down the Hokies after 15 years of being beat down and took home the Commonwealth Cup.

Relax, Hokies.

There were many reasons why the Cavaliers beat the Hokies on Black Friday. And, no it wasn’t because of the officials. That’s loser talk. Did the officials make some horrific calls? Absolutely. Yet, it went both ways. For anyone who has followed the ACC for years you’d know this is nothing new. Officiating is bad everywhere, especially in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Hokies were outcoached on Friday. On both sides of the ball. While we can lay blame on the players, I wouldn’t necessarily say they were always put in the best position. Defensively, there is no reason why the Hokies should allow Bryce Perkins to have those two scores early in the game. Sure, the defense settled down after the first quarter but it was an ugly start.

Offensively, the playcalling remains an issue. It is predictable, it is stale and it does not always cater to the talents of many of Virginia Tech’s skill players. That’s an issue. The offense played scared the first half and that’s on head coach Justin Fuente and offensive coordinator Brad Cornelson.

Did anyone see what happened when quarterback Hendon Hooker attacked Virginia’s secondary in the second half? There was no way UVa’s defensive backs could keep up with Tech’s skill players. Those are opportunities lost.

And, about that defense. For weeks now, we’ve been praising Bud Foster and this group—and they deserved it. However, against the Hoos this group was an even bigger issue than the offense. While the offense was stagnant in the first half, the defense struggled the entire game outside of the second quarter. They missed tackles, there were gaping holes in the secondary and Virginia’s offense always seemed one step ahead of the Hokies.

Sure, losing cornerback Caleb Farley just before the game with back spasms was a tough blow. Again, that’s not entirely why the Hokies lost. Everything played a part, but one player didn’t cost Virginia Tech this game.

A 15-year streak is impressive. It was going to end. Remember earlier in the season when everyone was looking at the schedule wondering how this team could become bowl eligible? A massive turnaround will put the Hokies in a bowl for the 27th consecutive season, most likely an appearance in the Belk Bowl. It was UVa’s mission to end this streak in 2019. And, on Friday, the Wahoos were the better team.

There is no shame in that.

The Hokies are a more talented squad on both sides of the ball. And much younger. VT’s two-deep is loaded with freshmen and sophomores while Virginia was heavy on seniors. The Hokies will be OK.

We know changes are coming. Foster is retiring and I would expect his successor to be named soon. This is a critical hire for Fuente. He not only needs a proven defensive coordinator, but one who can get on the road and make a difference in recruiting. There are too many coaches on this staff not pulling their weight on the recruiting front. That must change.

Also, the Hokies should consider a change at offensive coordinator. Is that feasible? Sure, it’s time for Fuente to go outside of his comfort zone and hire someone to take this offense—his offense—to the next level. Cornelson has proven he isn’t that guy. The offensive success the Hokies experienced after Hooker took over is more due to him being such a massive upgrade over Ryan Willis. The playcalling and the schemes were still an issue.

Now that we are two days removed from this loss, we can take a look back on this season and see plenty of growth, along with plenty of disappointments, too.