When your spouse leaves you a to-do list, you best get it done.
So humor me for a bit, as I play the role of loving spouse to Virginia Tech football. The Hokies are mired in a four-game losing streak and close to securing their second losing record in three seasons. There’s plenty to do, even if it’s almost December.
Get away from it all
The Hokies need to remove themselves from the football facilities for at least a little while.
Justin Fuente was right when he said his players, coaches and staffers have been going non-stop since the summertime. Virginia Tech is the only team in the country that has played nine straight weeks and when you consider the extra “stuff” that’s gone into getting ready for this season, it’s been a particularly exhausting stretch.
Fuente agrees, and isn’t requiring his players to stay in Blacksburg for Thanksgiving.
“We need to hit recharge a little bit,” Fuente said. “It’s been as long a stretch as I can remember.”
Fuente said the team will take off Thursday and Friday before returning for meetings on Saturday. Allowing his players to distance themselves from football for a couple days is smart, no matter what the COVID-19 protocol says.
“These kids have already sacrificed a tremendous amount… They deserve an opportunity if they’re within the region and they can do it safely to go home,” Fuente said.
As always, get healthy
The chief goal of nearly every bye week is to get injured players healthy for the remainder of the season. Even with just two games left on the schedule, this goal remains unchanged.
Several key contributors have missed notable time this season. Jermaine Waller has been hurt all season and has missed Tech’s last two games. Christian Darrisaw tried to play vs. Pitt but couldn’t go. Khalil Herbert was supposedly a full-go vs. Pitt last Saturday, but he carried the ball just nine times. Tre Turner went out again in the first half vs. the Panthers.
If Virginia Tech is going to have any chance of a decent finish to this season, they need to get at least a couple of these players healthy enough to get on the field. The Hokies are a deficient team and cannot afford to go into games vs. Clemson and Virginia without these players.
Who is sticking around?
There are going to be more opt-outs. Virginia Tech had two more just last week — Keshon Artis and Zion DeBose —and it would shock absolutely no one if more players went down that road.
Fuente said on Monday that there hasn’t been an increase in those types of conversations with players. As much as I’d like to believe that, I don’t.
The transfer portal is going to be as full as ever before this offseason. Players are getting a free year of eligibility from the NCAA anyway, giving players ultimate flexibility to change their career paths.
The Hokies should expect a couple more players to opt-out of Virginia Tech’s final two games. I’m not going to openly speculate on who those players are or might be, but fans shouldn’t be surprised.
(UPDATE: Virginia Tech announced on Wednesday that Elijah Bowick has opted-out for the rest of the 2020 season.)
Find your pride
If you’re old enough to remember Virginia Tech’s 2018 season, you’ll remember how the Hokies played in the middle of that season. Tech lost five of six games, all five of those losses coming by double digits.
Included in that dreadful period was a 30-point disaster vs. Pitt. Oddly enough, Virginia Tech just lost by 33 to Pitt. History sucks sometimes.
I’m all ears for criticism of Virginia Tech’s coaches — they’ve failed to adapt and put players in advantageous positions — but the players own their own share of the blame for the Hokies’ current four-game skid.
What happened in the Pitt game was abominable. Virginia Tech was within reach through halftime, but rolled over after a failed fourth-and-goal attempt in the third quarter. The Hokies were shut out 24-0 in the second half and looked flat-out disinterested.
It was the first time that the Hokies had quit all season. They need to find that resilience that they displayed against NC State, North Carolina and Duke. They need to show some fight like they did vs. Miami.
Nobody is expecting Virginia Tech to beat Clemson on Dec. 5. But showing up and competing with the Tigers would be acceptable. Giving Clemson everything they can handle is admirable and might just make people believe in the Hokies one more time vs. Virginia.