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Which Irish Team Is Hokies Head Coach Justin Fuente Expecting To See?

After a devastating 45-14 loss to Michigan, Notre Dame began the difficult process of moving on and preparing for Virginia Tech.

Meanwhile, the Hokies were idle and getting ready for the Fighting Irish last week, but as we saw with Notre Dame’s performance on Saturday, time off does not necessarily equate to a team being better prepared.

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Fuente and the Hokies are expecting Notre Dame to be ready to bounce back when the two teams square off on Saturday.
Fuente and the Hokies are expecting Notre Dame to be ready to bounce back when the two teams square off on Saturday. (Charles LeClarie, USA Today Sports)

Coming off of Virginia Tech’s last two idle weekends, the Hokies have also come out flat. Last season, on Oct. 25, 2018, they lost to Georgia Tech 49-28 after an off week.

Then, earlier this year, Virginia Tech (5-2) played Duke coming off of an idle week and lost 45-10.

When asked if his team prepared differently during the most recent bye week, Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente simply said, “No.”

But the bigger question on Virginia Tech beat reporters’ and fans’ minds is which Notre Dame team will actually show up? Will they see the team that was manhandled by Michigan or the version that handled their rival Virginia 35-20?

Expecting Better Play From Notre Dame

Despite Notre Dame’s lack of success recently, Fuente still has respect for the team’s most vaunted units: the defensive line and the quarterback.

“If you look at their team across the board, they seem to be an older, developed team, particularly on the defensive front where they can certainly rush the passer and have been very good against the run,” he said. “This is going to be a big challenge for our young guys to keep their technique when playing against really talented, good football players.”

The Hokies have an improved offensive line that Notre Dame needs to be physical with and attempt to dominate. Virginia Tech isn’t going to take them lightly, no matter how poorly they did against Michigan.

That means this group better come prepared to play.

Fuente is also impressed with what he has seen from senior quarterback Ian Book, who started against Virginia Tech in the matchup between the two teams in Blacksburg last year. That game was Book’s fourth career start and third of the season. He completed 25 of 35 throws for 271 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while leading the Fighting Irish to a 45-23 victory.

“At some point early in [last] year, they made the move to go fully with him as their quarterback and it really changed them offensively,” Fuente said. “It really hasn't stopped since they made that move. He’s the guy that can throw the ball, he’s athletic, gets out of trouble.

“He makes plays with his feet, but also keeps his eyes downfield and can really hurt you on the move.”

Familiar With Virginia Tech And The ACC

We are now at the point where we’re seeing a semi-regular matchup between Notre Dame and ACC teams that they had never played before they struck the five-games-per-season deal with the conference.

After having never played the Hokies in the history of the program, this will be the third time the Fighting Irish have faced them in four seasons. The two teams will also play again in Blacksburg on Oct. 9, 2021.

This weekend will be Virginia Tech’s second trip to South Bend, with the first coming in 2016. However, Fuente isn’t sure this will be much of an advantage since just a few of his current players actually appeared in that game.

“I don’t know how many of them we’ve got that were there,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like very many. We know we're going to go play a very talented football team in a hostile environment.

“I don’t know if there’s much to glean from things that happened two years ago.”


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