When he met with his team Sunday in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente had a lot to get straight before moving on to preparation for Saturday’s game at Louisville.
Virginia Tech’s 10 penalties for 112 penalized yards - matching the most infractions and establishing a high for lost yards in Fuente’s five seasons at Tech - from last Saturday’s 23-16 loss at Wake Forest were near the top of the list. Rebuilding quarterback Hendon Hooker’s confidence and addressing how Tech’s sideline needs to be more involved in games were also on Fuente’s agenda.
As far as the penalties are concerned, Fuente believes he got his point across.
“We addressed it as a team," Fuente said Monday. "I have done a bunch of things before if those things become habitual. I don’t anticipate that they will become habitual.”
Tech defensive tackle Jarrod Hewitt’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a tantrum he threw after he was ejected because of a targeting infraction early in the third quarter didn’t go unnoticed by Fuente. Hewitt will be forced to sit out for the first half at Louisville (2-4, 1-4 ACC) since his targeting penalty at Wake Forest took place in the second half.
“The targeting is one thing, but the outburst afterwards is unacceptable,” Fuente said. “He knows that.”
In 129 career pass attempts entering this past weekend, Hooker had thrown two interceptions, both in last season’s loss to Virginia. He had three interceptions in 33 pass attempts at Wake Forest.
Though Fuente acknowledges Hooker’s final interception at Wake Forest came when Tech was in “desperation mode” with eight seconds left, Hooker’s first two interceptions came under different circumstances.
“The first (interception) there in the red zone at the end of the first half, he was going the right place with the ball,” Fuente said. “It was pretty tight coverage. The ball got tipped up and the overlap player intercepted it. It’s hard to get too upset. I mean, you don’t like the outcome, don’t get me wrong, but sure the ball could have been maybe a little bit lower. Then, the second one, Hendon would say, if he was sitting right here, it was not a very good read and those things happen.”
Fuente said defensive end TyJuan Garbutt, who was a starter last season, is back with the team after missing all of preseason practices in August and the entire season to this point while dealing with a family-related matter. The plan for Garbutt will be to work him back into practices and get him properly conditioned for a return to play at some point in the future, according to Fuente.
Garbutt’s return is a welcome addition to the sideline, but Fuente hopes to see more emotion at Louisville from players who aren’t in the game than he saw at Wake Forest.
“I was just as upset with the guys who didn’t play in the game as I was the guys that made the mistakes," Fuente said. "We’ve got to understand each game that it’s our job to carry the emotion on the sidelines. I didn’t feel like we did as good a job of that as we should have done, as well. It’s not always a one-to-one ratio. I look for us to focus on continuing to get better.”
Norm Wood, 757-247-4644, firstname.lastname@example.org
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