Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente talks with his players during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Wade Payne
September 13, 2016

Justin Fuente doesn't seem to be hitting the panic button just yet after nine Virginia Tech fumbles in the first two games, but the first-year coach of the Hokies knows his team's ball control needs to dramatically improve.

The Hokies (1-1) overcame four fumbles in their opening victory against Liberty, but weren't able to do the same when they coughed it up five times against 15th-ranked Tennessee last week. The Vols rolled to a 45-24 victory.

The Hokies begin Atlantic Coast Conference play at home against Boston College (1-1) on Saturday.

''I would say we're fumbling the ball too much. That's a fact,'' Fuente said. ''We must - it's not an option - get that fixed. That is a result of several things. We have to do a better job technically.

''Looking at the last two games, when we talked about it with the team yesterday, there's some technical things there that we've got to get cleaned up, some emphasis that we've got to do a better job. There's a little bit of toughness and selflessness that goes into holding on to the football that we haven't had,'' he said.

The Hokies fumbled 16 times all of last season, but lost just seven.

Quarterback Jerod Evans has thrown five touchdown passes in two games, but has also fumbled the ball away three times. A fourth fumble came when center Kyle Chung snapped the ball over Evans' head for a 21-yard loss.

That fumble, and two others, came inside the Hokies' 10 yard-line, setting up short touchdown drives. Another was returned 71 yards for a touchdown by Alpha Jalloh in Virginia Tech's season-opening victory against Liberty.

Against Tennessee, a botched handoff to C.J. Carroll on a jet sweep led to a recovery for the Vols at the Hokies 5. Virginia Tech led 14-0 at the time, but Tennessee converted with a touchdown, the first of their 31 unanswered points.

''You do have every once in a while those occasions where you hold on to the ball and no matter what the defensive player just puts his hand in the right place and the ball,'' Evans said. ''And then you have those cases where we've been having, where we're not thinking about it a lot and we're thinking about making extra effort plays that we're not actually thinking about protecting that ball.

''We just have to make a conscious effort to protect the ball more than getting those extra two or three yards, if that's the case. If that's not the case, then get those two or three yards but definitely we have to make a better effort, consciously, to protect the ball.''

The Hokies have switched to a more up-tempo offense under Fuente, but he doesn't view that as an issue.

''When I look at it, I see it as kind of what we talked about,'' he said. ''There's some technique involved and ... we've got to be less selfish and more selfless and a little bit tougher. I see this as we've got to do a better job. You could go back to say if you have a better chance to fumble the football if you have 90 plays as opposed to 60 plays. That's obvious. But I don't see that as a deal. It hasn't been in the past.''


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