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No. 12 Hokies battle short work week with W&M up next

September 7, 2018

FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2018, file photo, Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and quarterback Josh Jackson (17) talk in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State, in Tallahassee, Fla. Virginia Tech's season got off to a very strong start with a decisive victory against Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida. The Hokies (1-0) open their home season on Saturday against William & Mary (1-0). (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser, File)

Virginia Tech’s season got off to a very strong start with a decisive victory against Florida State in Tallahassee. For the No. 12 Hokies to keep it going, they need to master a short work week.

The Hokies (1-0) open their home season on Saturday against William & Mary (1-0). The Tribe is an FCS-level opponent, but one for which coach Justin Fuente’s team has just four days to prepare after playing Monday night.

“We take the pads off and that makes you a little bit nervous as a coach, but we’ve had pretty good success with that model,” Fuente said of his approach to the short week “Trying to again focus on two things: Number one is getting our guys feeling well and knowing what to do in a short week and then hopefully, next week we can get on a normal schedule.”

The Hokies had plenty of time to get ready for the Seminoles, and it showed. With a defense that replaced eight starters, one of the youngest in longtime coordinator Bud Foster’s time at Virginia Tech limited their ACC rivals to 327 yards, 12 first downs and caused five turnovers in a 24-3 victory .

Florida State’s yardage included an 85-yard run by Cam Akers from inside his own 10 to inside the Hokies’ 10, but a few plays later, Virginia Tech forced and recovered a fumble, killing the threat. It marked the first time since 2008 that the Seminoles were held without a touchdown at home.

“Take out the 85-yard run and we kind of smothered the run game,” Foster said.

William & Mary has often kept its annual matchup against a Power Five school close, losing three times by six points or fewer since a 26-14 victory at Virginia in 2009. But the Tribe has had less success against the Hokies, losing 44-3 (2007) and 34-9 (2014) in its last two visits to Lane Stadium.

It last won there in 1986.

“They’re loaded again this year,” Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said this week. “They have been there for a number of years, and I think the thing that jumps out at you right away is the defense.”

Here are some things to watch when William & Mary visits Virginia Tech:

TURNOVERS: In any game that looks lopsided on paper, takeaways can quickly change the tenor. Virginia Tech’s five takeaways made their 24-3 victory against the Seminoles look more convincing than it probably felt on the field, and a similar performance by the Tribe could significantly improve their chance at having success.

SHORT WEEK: The Hokies have a history of playing short-week games against FCS-level teams, and it’s not always been positive. In 2010, they lost 21-16 to James Madison after opening with a 33-20 loss to No. 3 Boise State.

PASSING FANCY: One year after Hokies career receiving leader Cam Phillips graduated, the Hokies’ need to find new go-to receivers for Josh Jackson to rely on. They got off to a good start against the Seminoles. Eric Kumah and Hezekiah Grimsley each caught four passes, and Phil Patterson caught three as Jackson went 16 for 26 for 207 yards. Kumah and Grimsley also caught touchdown passes and Jackson didn’t throw an interception.

FUTURE HALL OF FAMER: Former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer will be at the game to see his good friend and future Hall of Famer Jimmye Laycock, whose 39th season at the helm of the tribe will be his last. Laycock’s uninterrupted tenure at an NCAA Division I program ranks third all-time behind only Joe Paterno (46 seasons at Penn State) and Amos Alonzo Stagg (41 seasons at Chicago). He’ll arrive with a career 246-189-2 record.

FAMILY TIES: Hokies redshirt junior running back Coleman Fox will be going up against his younger brother, Riley, a redshirt freshman linebacker for the Tribe. They are the children of Rich Fox, a member of Frank Beamer’s first teams as the head coach at Virginia Tech. The elder Fox ran for four touchdowns in his last two seasons.

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