Virginia Tech Miami Football

Virginia Tech defensive back Chamarri Conner reacts after a quarterback sack during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente gave very direct responses to a series of questions about the team’s practice habits on Monday. 

Last week, multiple players commented on how intense Tech’s practices were in the days following the loss to Duke (the program’s worst loss at Lane Stadium in four-plus decades). Defensive back Caleb Farley called them some of the “most competitive practices” during his three years in Blacksburg.

Tech responded by beating Miami 42-35, but Fuente made it clear he wants the good vibes from the win to stay in South Beach.

“We are not going back,” Fuente said. “We are not going back. Our team is not going back to go practice laid back or any of that. I’m going to coach, the way that, and I’ve told our team this — we’ve got to get mentally, physically and emotionally tougher. We have to got to learn how to practice. Tuesday we are going to roll out there and it better look the same as last Tuesday.”

Fuente’s main point of emphasis coming out of the Duke game was Tech's practice habits. 

Outside of a change at quarterback, the coaching staff made very few personnel changes. While the game plan was tailored to Hendon Hooker’s running ability, it wasn’t radically different to anything that’s come before and it was the same for Tech’s defense.

Instead of making wide-sweeping changes, Fuente asked for sustained focus and effort from players every minute that they were on the field last week and he got it.

“To me, they took the coaching or the criticism during the week, that we laid out for them, they listened to it, they didn’t get offended, and they set out about changing it,” Fuente said after the game. “When an opportunity presented itself, they responded.”

It was an easy task with players looking to prove they weren’t a “soft football team” as Dalton Keene said after the game, but will they be able to sustain that motivation this week against a 1-4 Rhode Island team?

The Rams are Tech’s second FCS opponent of the season and the game doesn’t count towards bowl eligibility, but Fuente isn’t interested in any excuses.

“It will not be, I can promise you that, we better practice like that on Tuesday,” Fuente said.

Fuente also made it clear the players are going to hear that same message the rest of the season. 

“It’s my job to get it done,” Fuente said.

Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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