Asked which loss was tougher, the blowout at Pittsburgh a few weeks ago or the last-second heartbreaker against Cincinnati last Saturday, Virginia Tech Kyshoen Jarrett went off the board with his answer.
“Losing, period,” he said.
Virginia Tech is hoping those times are behind it as it begins ACC play in earnest this week, traveling to face North Carolina on Saturday in a Coastal Division matchup.
While the reaction from the Hokies has been swift and largely negative about the team’s 3-2 start — only the third time in the last 17 years that Tech has had two losses before the end of September — Jarrett said internally, the players’ confidence is still high.
“Everybody outside looking in would probably think our confidence level is down,” Jarrett said. “But when you have older guys like Bruce [Taylor] getting everybody together before practice and letting us know that we can’t lower our heads and we have to keep fighting and pretty much no more joking around, [it's not.]. We all just have to attack in a different way than we were before.”
Coordinator Bud Foster stood up for his defense after Monday’s practice in a terse interview with media, an occasionally NSFW backing of his group against what he thought were some unfair criticisms.
Asked about the outburst Tuesday, head coach Frank Beamer said, “I don’t read or listen.” But he added this:
“Well, I think this: we’ve got good players, we’ve got great kids,” he said. “We coach them up, they played hard Saturday and we didn’t play perfect at times, play well at times, but we’re going to take care of our kids.”
Said quarterback Logan Thomas: “I think it needed to be said.”
The players respect Foster’s backing and tactics.
“He is the defensive coordinator and he’s been here for so many years he knows how to kind of get in your head to keep your confidence level up and such,” Jarrett said. “But at the same time, he doesn’t want to let an individual play lower than what his potential is, so he has to be that good supportive but he also has to be tough, very tough, on us.
“I respect that and I’m pretty sure everybody else does as well because I wouldn’t want anybody to let me play lower than what my potential is. I would want someone to be tough on me more than anything.”
Beamer is trying to get everything to come together at once.
“What I would say is we’ve been good in every area at some point in time,” he said. “Now we just got to put it together for four quarters and play as a football team in that fashion.”
“We know what we can do. We know we haven’t played our best ball,” Thomas said. “Anytime you know you haven’t played your best ball, maybe if you played your best ball and you lost, then your confidence might be broken, might be shaken, but I feel totally confident in what we’re doing on offense, what we’re doing on defense and what we can do these next even games to get us where we want to be.”
Here are some more notes and quotes from Tuesday’s press conference. I’ll have more after tonight’s interviews with offensive players/coaches …
- There was more talk about the team’s slow starts, and I plan to address this more once I can talk with Mike O’Cain and Bryan Stinespring tonight after practice. Wide receiver Marcus Davis addressed the issue Tuesday. “I think it’s a lack of energy out there,” he said. “I think as an offense, we’ve got to come out firing on all cylinders. We’ve got to pick it up from the start. Instead of waiting for something to happen, we’ve got to make something happen ourselves. That’s the biggest problem I see.”
- Is Davis surprised by the slow starts, considering how the team did in the preseason? “Preseason, you know, it’s always like that, but at the same time we’re not playing against other teams,” he said. “I’m kind of surprised we haven’t jelled quicker, but things happen. We’ve just got to look forward to get better.”
- How does Thomas account for the slow starts? “There’s nothing you can explain,” he said. “The only thing I can think of right now is we’ve got to come out and make it a point of emphasis right from the get-go. Come out and play as hard as possible, physical and just take care of the small things as well. Because those are the ones, the small things, will pick up those first downs. Once you pick up first downs, it builds the confidence and gets things going.”
- Thomas said Stinespring came up to him this week for some input, asking for his five favorite passing plays. “I gave him a list of 10 instead,” Thomas said. “They really want to know what I see, what I feel comfortable with and what I see is best for our offense.”
- With regards to Logan continuing to have high throws, Beamer said this: “Last year we had veteran guys around him. And this year we don’t. I think sometimes when you’re not quite sure what the guys is going to do, that causes you to be inaccurate a little bit.”
- Why does Thomas think he was able to break out of a funk last year vs. Miami, which about this time of the season? “I couldn’t tell you,” he said. “It’s a different year, different team, different players. It’s just not the same as it was last year.”
- There’s been a lot of talk about scripting plays. Beamer said the Hokies have done it in the past, but that was a while ago. What they do now is not have a strict script of plays, but rather a menu of plays to run in certain situations, like 2nd-and-7 or 3rd-and-1. Hopefully O’Cain and Stinespring can shed some more light on this.
- Beamer said running back Tony Gregory‘s knee didn’t respond well late last week. “He feels better about it this week, so we’ll see,” he said. The coach said the same for left guard David Wang, who traveled but didn’t play because of an ankle injury. “It stayed tender on him and he couldn’t push off,” Beamer said.
- Linebacker Jack Tyler has been playing well this year. His 53 tackles are tied for most in the ACC. He came to Tech as a preferred walk-on, someone Beamer compared to Cody Grimm. “Had a knack for making plays,” Beamer said. “He doesn’t waste steps out there. He plays fast. He plays bigger than his size and faster than his speed, and he’s really given us some good play.”