No. 18 Virginia Tech set to host Delaware in home opener
Virginia Tech had a short week to get ready for its home-opener against Delaware, and coach Justin Fuente took his foot off the gas to prepare his 18th-ranked Hokies for the matchup.
Fuente said it’s not really his preference to go easier on his team in a short week, but after the physical nature of their 31-24 victory against West Virginia, it was the prudent approach to take this week.
”The thing is there’s just a little bit less physicalness in practice to get the guys feeling better, get their bodies healed, get their legs back and that sort of stuff,” Fuente said this week. ”We’ll cut back just a little bit out of necessity, not because I want to, but I just feel like that’s the best way to get guys back ready to go.”
Delaware, an FCS squad, will visit Blacksburg, Virginia, in the first meeting of the programs.
The Blue Hens, 22-3 winners against Delaware State in coach Danny Rocco’s debut last week, have faced Atlantic Coast Conference teams in each of the past three seasons. They lost 62-0 to Pittsburgh in 2014, 41-14 to North Carolina in 2015 and 38-21 at Wake Forest last season on their way to a 4-7 record.
Rocco, however, last season led Richmond to a 37-20 victory at Virginia and said while the payday his school receives for playing a Power Five opponent is an important, the players on his team have always enjoyed the chance to see how they measure up against teams in the higher division.
”For me, I think these games are exciting,” Rocco said. ”I think they are fun to prepare for and I know that my student-athletes look forward to playing in these games and we recognize it more as an opportunity,” he said.
After coaching at Liberty for six seasons and Richmond the past five, Rocco is very familiar with the Hokies, and said though their personnel has changed, watching their opener served to confirm what he already suspected.
”They’re athletic on defense, they’re fast and then offensively they look physical,” he said.
Some other things to watch when Delaware visits Virginia Tech:
ACTION JACKSON: Hokies redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson could hardly have had a better college debut. He threw for 235 yards and a touchdown and ran for 101 yards and another score while avoiding turnovers. Seeing what his does for an encore will surely energize the home crowd and be of interest to Fuente and his staff.
GROUND CONTROL: Besides Jackson, whose rushing yardage came on just 11 carries, Virginia Tech had three running backs carry the ball at least eight times against West Virginia. Deshawn McClease had eight carries for 51 yards and a touchdown, Steven Peoples had 13 carries for 39 yards and Travon McMillian had nine carries for 34 yards and a score. To avoid getting Jackson hit too often, look for the Hokies to utilize their backs more Saturday.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The Hokies have 11 freshmen or redshirt freshmen on their two-deep depth chart, and Fuente would love an opportunity to get some of them significant playing time if Virginia Tech can get a sizeable lead. He’d probably also love to get backup quarterback AJ Bush, a junior college transfer, some work.
HOMECOMING: Blue Hens defensive coordinator Chris Cosh might not recognize Lane Stadium, which has undergone numerous expansions since he played linebacker for the Hokies from 1977-79, leading them in tackles as a senior.
AVOIDING A REPEAT: The last time Virginia Tech lost to a team from the CAA was 2010 when, in the second week of the season and with a short work week, they fell 21-16 to James Madison. That game was also at Lane Stadium.
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