CLEMSON – Virginia Tech football coach Justin Fuente says that playing against Clemson is like playing with fire.
“It’s like defusing a bomb,” Fuente said Monday. “One small snip of the wire that’s incorrect and ‘boom,’ you blow your hands off. That’s just how talented and how good they are.”
Clemson, which is 4-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation, will put its school-record 11-game road winning streak on the line against the No. 12 Hokies Saturday night.
Fuente, who left Memphis to take over the Virginia Tech program prior to last season, guided the Hokies into last year’s ACC Championship Game, where his team came up just short against Clemson, 42-35.
At the ACC Kickoff media gathering in July, Fuente admitted that that defeat "still kills me... we had a chance."
On Monday Fuente was asked what his team “got away with” in successive victories this season against West Virginia, Delaware, East Carolina and Old Dominion that won't be permissible against Clemson.
“You’re not going to get away with much of anything,” Fuente said.
“If you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay. You don’t even have to make a mistake – you can take one step in the wrong direction, or hesitate for half a second, and when you’re playing the type of talent that we’re going up against, it’s like defusing a bomb. Like one small snip of the wire that’s incorrect and, ‘Boom!’ You blow your hands off. That’s how talented and how good they are.
“We’ll have to make sure we’re on point with everything we’re doing, crystal-clear with our directives and assignments. Everything will be difficult. A first-down will be difficult. A defensive stop will be difficult. Punting the ball and covering the punt will be difficult.
It’s all amplified. Every step you take is amplified when you play talent like this.”
Like Clemson, Virginia Tech is off to a strong start, also sitting at 4-0 and having achieved the Hokies’ highest ranking in six years. The game will mark the first match-up between top 15 teams at Lane Stadium since Clemson won 23-3 in a game that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney remembers well.
“We were fortunate to win in up there in 2011 on a cold, rainy night,” Swinney said. “The time before that, we got killed (41-23 in 2007).
“They do a great job – it’s one of the best environments in college football, and the Virginia Tech folks do a great job of supporting their team. They understand that they have the chance to bring energy to their team. Coach (Frank) Beamer built it all in the years he was there, and now Coach Fuente is continuing that. I’m sure it will be an awesome crowd and a fun environment to go play in.”
Scott Keepfer, The Greenville News