BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente spent the entire offseason looking to shore up a punt return unit that underperformed last season.
The Hokies also put the ball on the ground fielding punts on more than one occasion last season and Fuente had a quick hook when that happened. The coach took a different approach on Saturday in Tech’s 35-28 loss to Boston College when the team’s new starting punt returner Hezekiah Grimsley fumbled at the end of the second quarter.
It was one of five turnovers on the day for Tech.
“It was misjudgment,” Grimsley said after the game. “I was fair-catching it, but I just didn’t get my feet under it. It was just a short punt. It was misjudged.”
The ball went right through Grimsley’s hands at Virginia Tech’s 28-yard line. Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown scored two plays later on a 28-yard touchdown run. It was the Eagles' second touchdown of the quarter off a turnover.
“It is frustrating, because we know that’s what we preached all week – taking care of the ball,” Grimsley said. “It was just poor ball security.”
If Fuente was tempted to go with Tayvion Robinson, the talented true freshman who is listed No. 2 on the depth chart, he didn’t show it. Grimsley trotted onto the field after Boston College went three-and-out on its first possession of the second half.
According to Fuente, it wasn’t all that tough of a decision,
“We left him in because we trust Hezzy,” Fuente said. “I’ve seen him work.”
Grimsley didn’t get a chance to field it — Boston College punter Grant Carlson knocked a short 30-yarder off the side of his foot — but the vote of confidence wasn’t lost on the receiver.
“Coach Fuente has still got a lot of trust in me,” Grimsley said. “I saw that when he put me back out there. He just told me, ‘Stay out of my own head. Just get your head back in the game.’ I’m out there for a reason – to make plays. The fact that he believed in me and kept me out there and not pulled me means a lot.”
Boston College’s last two punts didn't provide Grimsley with an opportunity for a return, but he flashed those playmaking skills plenty on offense.
The veteran receiver caught a 55-yard touchdown from quarterback Ryan Willis in the first half (a career long). With the offense facing a third-and-21 midway through the third quarter, Grimsley hauled in a 24-yard gain for the first down to extend the drive trailing 28-14.
“We know we’ve got the guys to make plays..” Grimsley said. “We’ve got plenty of bodies to go in and do whatever position, but I guess it was just stuff – we’ve got a lot of little stuff we’ve got to clean up. We knew what we did wrong. That’s the good thing, but we’ll just go to practice and clean it back up.”