BLACKSBURG, Va. - Nearly 48 hours after his Virginia Tech team lost at home to Liberty, a program only in its second full season as a member of college football's top division, Tech head coach Justin Fuente was still hurting.
"No, I don’t feel better," Fuente told reporters Monday. "I don’t feel better at all. It is just a hard one. It is what it is. You put yourself out there and go compete enough and you are going to win some games like that and you will eventually lose one."
Fuente may not be feeling better, but he's certainly feeling the heat.
Asked if he's concerned about the perception of the Tech program, once considered the flagship operation in Virginia, after losses to Liberty, Duke and Old Dominion in the last three seasons - Fuente said he is.
“I would say the term concern is a pretty large and general thing," the fifth-year head coach responded. "I am concerned about a lot of things. I don’t like the fact that the game fell the way it did, it is disappointing to fans, coaches, and players alike and it is up to us to continue to strive for improvement and that is exactly what we are doing. I don’t like it, nor does anybody, and it is up to us to bounce back.”
In the hours after Tech's loss to Liberty, a team with a 7-and-0 record on the season after its upset of Tech, multiple articles and blog posts were written about Fuente and his program - and few of them carried a positive tone. Among the excerpts of headlines from those writings: Out of excuses, The tipping point, What now and The art of not making friends.
Fuente, 37-and-23 in five seasons as head coach of the Hokies, has never been all too revered by the Tech fanbase - and not solely because he replaced the legendary Frank Beamer as Hokies bench boss.
In his first season, Fuente won 10 games and was voted 2016 ACC Coach of the Year. However, Tech went just 23-and-16 in his next three seasons but managed to maintain college football's longest active bowl game appearance streak.
Following the 2019 campaign, after he was also linked to the then-vacant Arkansas job that eventually went to Sam Pittman, Fuente interviewed for the head job at Baylor before deciding to stay in Blacksburg.
"The coaches have to set a tone," Fuente said Monday. "I don’t mean a demeaning tone. I mean an upbeat, positive, forward thinking tone. What kind of person are you? When things go bad, are you the type that crawls under the rock and hides or are you the type that stands up and tries to fix this thing. There are a lot of people that run away from those challenges and we are trying to challenge our young people in today’s day and age, which is harder than ever in my opinion because as adults we have built in a million excuses for them, to try and stand up and go take something on head on as a challenge is very rewarding. Our leadership in the locker room and we’ve got to do a great job setting the tone as coaches.”
Virginia Tech, 4-and-3 on the season, hosts No. 9 Miami Saturday at Lane Stadium.