On Sept. 27 of this season, things were not looking good for Virginia Tech. The Hokies were 2-2, but 0-2 against Power 5 opponents. Dating back to last season, the Hokies were 1-6 against the Power 5, the one win coming in overtime against Virginia.
Since then, though, Virginia Tech has been a totally different team. They’re 3-1 against the Power 5 (plus a win over FCS Rhode Island). The one loss came by one point at Notre Dame, and the most recent win was a 36-17 blowout of then-No. 19 Wake Forest.
So, what’s changed? Hiring Jerry Kill as a sort of executive consultant hasn’t hurt.
But the turning point according to Justin Fuente came when he apologized to the team for their performance. As he told the Daily Press on Monday, Fuente had a come-to-Jesus moment with himself in front of the team after the Hokies’ 45-10 home loss to Duke, back on Sept. 27.
“I just put it up there and I told them, ‘This is my fault. We are not a tough football team right now. We’re not mentally tough, we’re not emotionally tough and we didn’t play physically tough, and here’s examples of it on the film and this is not your fault. It’s my fault.’
“I said, ‘It’s changing right now. I’ve let you down, and that’s on me and I encourage everybody to look at themselves in the mirror when things don’t go well, and I’m doing it right now,” he said. “I’m telling you we’re changing this. I’m going back to being myself. I’m not worried about anything else, and if you want to go be a part of it, then I’ll see you on the practice field.’”
Coaches love to talk about accountability to the point where it’s become a cliche, but the thing about accountability is it reminds me of an even older cliche: any time you point a finger at someone else, there’s four more pointed back at you. Good on Fuente for recognizing that.