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Things are not going well at Virginia Tech.
The Hokies were blown out by Duke at home on Friday night, 45-10. It was the program’s worst home loss since 1974, and it was ugly pretty much from start to finish.
Justin Fuente’s team actually led 3-0 after one quarter, but gifted Duke a short field when Fuente put backup quarterback Hendon Hooker into the game. Hooker had a botched exchange with a running back and fumbled, giving Duke great field position. A play later, the Blue Devils took a 7-3 lead — a lead they would not relinquish.
That touchdown started a scoring spree of 31 consecutive points for Duke, capped off by a 42-yard touchdown run by quarterback Quentin Harris.
The Blue Devils poured it on late, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns when the game was already out of reach. Duke even faked a punt for a big gain with a 28-point lead.
When all was said and done, Duke racked up 422 yards of offense on Bud Foster’s defense, including 234 on the ground. By comparison, Virginia Tech totaled just 259 yards and was especially miserable in the passing game. Starter Ryan Willis completed only 7-of-18 passes for 112 yards, 72 of which came on a touchdown pass to Damon Hazelton late in the third quarter.
Virginia Tech’s regression under Justin Fuente
Perhaps we should have seen this kind of performance coming.
The Hokies, now 2-2 on the year, opened the season with a loss to Boston College, a team that ended up getting blown out by Kansas. From there, Virginia Tech had close wins over Old Dominion and Furman, an FCS program. Against Furman, the Hokies trailed 14-3 at halftime and needed to mount a second-half comeback to avoid disaster.
Instead, the disaster came Friday night against Duke — an opponent the Hokies had two weeks to prepare for. After a performance like that, it’s fair to wonder about the direction of the program under Fuente.
Fuente inherited Hall of Famer Frank Beamer’s program in pretty good shape. But things have gone backwards in the years since.
In 2016, Fuente’s first season, the Hokies won the ACC Coastal and put up a good fight against Clemson in the ACC title game. In 2017, the Hokies finished 9-4 before going 6-7 in 2018. The season featured a loss to Old Dominion and a four-game ACC losing streak. The Hokies had to rally with back-to-back wins in their last two regular season games just to extend the program’s consecutive bowl streak to 25 games. But the Hokies lost to Cincinnati in the Military Bowl, sealing the program’s first losing record since 1992.
And if Friday night’s performance is any indication, things are not trending in a positive direction. Perhaps fortunately, Virginia Tech plays in the weakest Power Five division, so there should be opportunities to pick up some wins in the coming weeks.
But if the Hokies continue to struggle, don’t be surprised if you hear Fuente’s name pop up in hot seat discussions. And in case you were wondering, Fuente’s buyout is $15 million.
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