The tailgate music that awakens you early on Saturday mornings in the fall, the first bite out of a turkey drumstick, and the excitement that runs through your body when “Enter the Sandman” comes on are all things Virginia Tech fans can relate to. For upperclassman and alumni, these traditions used to also include legendary Coach Frank Beamer. Now, Coach Justin Fuente has the task of continuing the culture set in place by Coach Beamer, while also bringing in his own traditions.
Special teams and a stifling defense were a staple of Coach Beamer led teams. Coach Fuente has decided to honor the special teams practice player of the week by having them wear Frank Beamer’s #25. For Beamerball faithfuls, last Saturday’s game against East Carolina was a pleasant reminder of the Hokie football we grew up on. It only took four minutes before Greg Stroman, this week’s honorary #25, returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown. It did not stop there - both as Tim Settle would block a field goal attempt, and Cam Phillips would block a punt, all in the second quarter.
Another Coach Beamer staple, a stifling defense, was kept in place, when longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster was kept on to lead the defense. With a renewed excitement in Blacksburg, the defense has been nothing less than spectacular. The defense ranks amongst the country’s best in almost every defensive category. Maybe more impressive is the fact that over a span of six quarters, between last week’s game against East Carolina and the prior matchup against ACC foe Boston College, the Hokie defense was perfect on the scoreboard. This included the first shutout of an opponent since Bowling Green in 2012.
Keeping the old traditions alive are just part of the story though. Virginia Tech’s high profile offense has been the real story led by Coach Fuente and quarterback Jérod Evans. The Virginia Tech offense is averaging 40.8 points per game, 447.5 yards of total offense up from 31.0 PPG, and 385.2 YPG in 2015. The three previous seasons the Hokies never averaged 400 yards of total offense or more than 30 PPG. During those four seasons, Virginia Tech was 29-23, the worst four year stretch since 1989-1992. How has Coach Fuente accomplished this turn around? By bringing in his up-tempo style offense and averaging more offensive plays per game than previous seasons (76.8 from 72.3 in 2015). Four games is a small sample size nonetheless, but a renewed excitement in Blacksburg has fans wondering what Fuente can do next. No matter who is at the helm of the Hokies, no matter who is playing for the Hokies, they will always be our team. We are Virginia Tech.