Ordinarily, Virginia Tech's troubled history in the Carrier Dome might make the prospect of heading up north for a road matchup with Syracuse an unwelcome one for the Hokies.
But after getting thoroughly soaked by Hurricane Matthew last week, it would seem the team is more than willing to see the upside to playing indoors (Tech's 2-6 all-time record in the dome notwithstanding).
"I'll never take a dry day for granted again," QB Jerod Evans said Tuesday.
DC Bud Foster is a bit more cautious — after all, he had a front row seat to the team's troubles in the building in its Big East days, recalling Tech's 50-42 loss in three overtimes the last time the two programs met in Syracuse back in 2002.
"That was a great rivalry," Foster said. "...We've lost some tight ones up there. We always played pretty well up there, but we lost some really tough, hard-nosed football games at times. Everybody still remembers the one — at least I do — I'm still scarred on that one, on the last play of the game when we really played, I thought, one of our best games of the (Donovan) McNabb era. Some great competition up there. It's a fun place to go play. We're looking forward to the opportunity on Saturday."
Plenty's changed since the last time Foster visited the venue, but he's sure that the building's acoustics will remain its biggest challenge.
"I think offensively, because of the crowd noise — it's contained a little more, obviously, being indoors — I think that will be the biggest adjustment," Foster said. "When we were there before, whatever the place holds — 50,000 or 55,000 — there were about 50,000 or 55,000 in there. It was a great atmosphere. I remember the crowd noise being a factor."
Foster's battle scars aside, his experience in a domed setting could prove to be quite helpful for the Hokies. Justin Fuente's never coached in a dome, and since Tech's last game in a dome was its 2013 loss to Alabama in the Georgia Dome, relatively few players on the current squad have experience in that sort of setting.
Evans has a bit of a leg up on the rest, though — he got to play in the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium for his high school playoffs back in Texas.
"(It was) very exciting," Evans said. "It was when it was first built, too — or newly built. It was very exciting to play at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium. That's like a big thing for Texas high school football, and to play there was very neat."
Ever humble, Evans noted that he played a "decent" game against Guyer HS out of Denton, Texas in Jerryworld.
"We blew them out," Evans said with a smirk. "I threw a 99-yard touchdown to my little brother. Ran a 60-yard touchdown. (I played) decent."
That would seemingly bode well for the Hokies' chances on offense on Saturday, and Syracuse's troubled defense might not provide much in the way of resistance — the Orange are allowing 475 yards per game, enough to be ranked 113th out of 128 FBS schools.
But after Evans was able to guide the team to a victory in a hurricane, the way he sees it, he's ready to play just about anywhere.
"It was definitely a confidence booster to play in weather like that and to put up — obviously (I) didn't put up good numbers, missed a lot of throws — but to come out with a 'W', to complete some of the throws and throwing some of them accurate, that's definitely is a confidence booster," Evans said.
ON IF THE PRESSURE TO LIVE UP TO THE STANDARD OF A BUD FOSTER DEFENSE HAS LESSENED AFTER PLAYING WELL:
"We never really look at it that way. We always look about trying to be the best we can be. Obviously if we can do that, then the other things take care of itself. The bottom line is this: we need to play well enough, and get enough stops and do enough things to win the football game. If stats and all those things come around, that's great, but the biggest stat we're concerned about is winning the football game and how we get around to doing that. I'm happy for our kids. Obviously we do have expectations here to play good defense and quality defense. I've told you guys this, there's a lot of offense out there. The game's changed. I'm really proud of how our kids have played. But I still feel like we have not reached our potential. We've done some really good things, but we can still do a lot of things better. That's the encouraging part. We need to be hungry and stay hungry and I'm sure we are. We haven't been in this position in a couple of years — the guys who are playing right now have not. We need to do a good job of focusing on the next thing and us getting better and get better. That's really what our focus is right now."
ON IF HE LIKES JUSTIN FUENTE GIVING HIM SPACE TO RUN THE DEFENSE:
"Yeah. Obviously I've been given a job to handle our side of the ball. Coach Fuente's given me that. He hasn't been in our room. I hope to keep it that way when it's all said and done. I think he trusts our side of the ball and that we're gonna work at it every week to put our kids in the best situation possible to give us enough opportunities to be successful. That's really what we're working for. It's been a great transition. I like how we're playing. Our play is a result of our work. That's what we're striving for, that we've gotta continue with those habits. Those habits then carry over into Saturday and then you get positive results, or at least give yourself a chance to have positive results by that. That's really what we're striving for. But yeah, Coach trusts us and we're doing our very best to live up to our side of the ball."
ON THE HEALTH OF TIM SETTLE:
"He practiced today a little bit. We fully expect him to be ready to go on Saturday. He's been running and doing things, so looking forward to getting him back out there."
ON WHAT KIND OF CHALLENGE AMBA ETTA-TAWO POSES:
"I think the one thing Syracuse has is outstanding skill kids. They're big up front. They're fast tempo, they remind me a lot of Tulsa when it's all said and done. The ability to throw the ball down the field, the ability to spread you out and run the football. The tempo — each week, we've faced a faster and faster tempo type offense, other than Boston College. This will be the fastest. They wanna run 100 plus plays, and they have. The other day, the weather conditions kind of curtailed that part of their offense a little bit with some turnovers and things of that nature, but prior to that, everybody they've played, they've went over 100 plays a game. We've gotta do a great job of having some urgency getting lined up and getting communications and being in position to go make plays. And then be good out on the perimeter, because they're gonna take their shots. They're gonna get the ball to him again, like last week, getting the ball to him on screens and little hitches where they can catch the ball in space and create plays with the ball in their hands after the catch. We've gotta do a great job of chasing the ball. I think that's one area we can be better. As good as we were the other day, I still think our effort to the football, our urgency to the ball can be much better. We're gonna have to do that to contain all their receivers. I think all their guys — Etta-Tawo, Antwan Cordy, Ervin Phillips, Brisly Estime — all those guys are really dynamic players."
ON IF THE 2002 GAME STILL HAUNTS HIM:
"You know what, I don't remember that one a whole lot. I really don't...I remember 63-0 out here, 62-0. I remember that more so than I remember that other one."
ON IF HE'S GOTTEN WHAT HE WANTED OUT OF MOVING TERRELL EDMUNDS TO ROVER FROM CORNER:
"Yeah, I'm just real pleased with how he's playing and how he's making plays. He'd probably like to have one play back last week. On a run play, he kind of took a bad angle. He was kind of hanging from a glance play on a play-action. He just had a bad angle, or the guy created a bad angle for him. I wouldn't say he took a bad angle, it was just too much separation in-between and the ball got out on the sideline, there. With the exception of a couple of plays in these first five games, I couldn't be more pleased. He's playing like I thought he would play, particularly after spring practice and what I saw at spring practice. I'm real pleased with where he is right now."
ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TERRELL AND TREMAINE EDMUNDS:
"The cool things is they play on the same side. So any time I'm talking about techniques for Tremaine, he's spilling the ball to his brother. He's not spilling to the rover or to the strong safety, he's spilling the ball to his brother. Your brother's counting on you, you know? And that's pretty cool when it's all said and done. Seeing those guys on the field, at times having a tandem tackle, that's gotta be pretty special for them. It's gotta be pretty special for your family. That's been a great tradition we've had here with the sets of brothers. I'm sure, and hope that will continue under the Fuente era as well. It's been fun to see those guys. I'm sure they're excited to be able to play together."
ON THE PROGRESS OF ANDREW MOTUAPUAKA:
"I think it's all the way around. I see more consistent play because of experience. I see a guy that has taken that leadership role and wants to be in that position. Communicating, getting the guys up front lined up, chasing the ball. You talk about a guy that only knows one speed, whether it's in the weight room or in conditioning, he runs with the DBs. He's that guy. If you went back and watched the video, he's passing guys by. One a missed tackle, it was Tremaine and Trevon Hill knocked each other off of the play, we were blitzing Andrew from the other side, he's the guy who came and ran by people and made the tackle on the far sideline. That's just the kind of effort that he's playing with. That's how he's working right now and that's how he's worked all this offseason. I couldn't be more proud of the young man of the improvement that he's made. The improvement that he's made is because of what he's put into it. I couldn't be more proud of him (or) more appreciative of what he's doing right now. That carries over to all of the other guys, carries over because he practices that way. When your good players practice that way, it rubs off on all of the other guys. We've been able to, luckily, have that over the years. That's part of what our expectations are. It's good that those guys buy into it and want to get back and be pretty special. The only way you are special is you've got to work at it."
ON IF HE THINKS MOTUAPUAKA WILL MOVE TO SAFETY IN THE NFL:
"I don't know about all of that. He's 6'0, 235 pounds. There's a lot of 6'0, 235-pound linebackers in the NFL. The one thing that he is, is a complete football player. He played 60 or 63 snaps the other day and then played all the special teams. He starts on our punt team, he starts on our kickoff return team. I think he had a big hit on a kickoff return team. That just makes a statement about the team player that he is and putting the team first. That's what we're getting right now. I don't think we've got — you've got how many 4 or 5 stars or 3 stars that we've got on our team — but we've got 11 stars. That's all we care about. We get 11 playing as one and we'll be real happy with that. I think we're moving toward that direction right now."
ON IF HE'S PLAYED IN A DOME:
"I have. I wanna say senior year (in high school) playoffs (in the) Dallas Cowboys stadium. (It was) very humid."
ON IF HE KNOWS WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE CARRIER DOME:
"I mean, I haven't been there, so I don't know what to expect. You asked if I'd been in a dome, I have."
ON WHAT HE'S SEEN ON TAPE OF SYRACUSE SO FAR:
"Still watching them. I couldn't really tell you a lot. I'm still picking up on their tendencies and all that."
ON IF HE'S HAPPY TO COME OUT OF THE NORTH CAROLINA GAME INTERCEPTION FREE:
"When I go into games, I don't think about, 'Am I going to throw a pick this game? Is it gonna be tipped?' My mind isn't even close to that. I'm thinking about what I need to do to execute. That's where my mind is. Looking at it, like I said, I don't look forward to throwing picks. That's not what I look forward to. Practice throwing good balls to great wide receivers. In retrospect, I still don't look at it that way. It's great that I didn't, but I'm not like, 'Oh, I didn't throw a pick.'"
ON HOW THE TEAM USES RUN-PASS OPTION PLAYS:
"We a lot of RPOs, so I mean if that's what you call 'checking' — what college football's about now is RPOs. With that said, I check a lot of things. I look at safeties, I look at linebackers, I look at ends, I look at the whole defense pretty much, and based on what they give me and what I see, I do vice versa what they're doing. I've been having that the whole season. They might put a little more on my plate now (that) I'm actually understanding what the heck I'm doing at a better, faster pace. But, for the most part, they've been doing that for the whole season as far as RPO's and trusting the quarterback to make the right decision."
ON IF HE FEELS GOOD AFTER CARRYING THE BALL 21 TIMES AGAINST UNC:
"Like I told you before, everybody's feeling some type of way, especially week six of the season. I'm nicked up, but who isn't? Name me somebody who isn't, then he's not really playing that hard. I've got nicks and bruises, but that's part of the game."
ON IF HE'D PREFER NOT TO CARRY THE BALL 21 TIMES A GAME:
"I'm gonna use what Cam Newton said, 'I'm gonna do whatever it takes to win.' If that's me carrying the ball 50 times, if that's gonna create a 'W', I'm willing to do that. If I can throw the ball 70 times — which I'd rather do, because I play quarterback — if I throw 70 times, then I'll do that. But whatever it is, if it's me sitting on the bench, whatever it takes to get a 'W', that's all I really care about. At the end of the day, all the other stuff is secondary to a 'W', you know? You can have great stats (and) end up losing, and I'll feel crappy. I had horrible stats (last week), and we won the game. And we dominated. Of course, credit to our defense, but we dominated the game. Would I prefer? Yeah, that's different, but it doesn't matter as long as I get the 'W'."
ON IF HIS BODY FEELS DIFFERENT AFTER RUNNING AS MUCH AS HE DID LAST WEEK:
"I was actually surprised that I wasn't as banged up as I thought. I had a feeling going into the game, they didn't tell me, but you just get the feeling that I might be carrying the ball a lot. That's just the feeling I got. After the game, I thought I was gonna be more banged up than what I was. It's not really that much."
ON IF HE EXPECTS TO SEE MORE DESIGNED QB RUNS IN THE FUTURE:
"That's a great question for Coach (Justin) Fuente and Coach (Brad) Cornelsen. I really don't know. If that's what they decide, then you'll see it. If not, then you won't. I don't really know."
ON WHAT KIND OF CULTURE THE STAFF IS TRYING TO BUILD:
"Team first, toughness, a lot of things they want to implement. Believe, prepare, play; preparation; 1-0; there's a lot of things that Coach Fuente harps on. I think, again, once the team started to see his formula work, it was easy to buy in. They saw how (against) Tennessee, we were up 14-0 and how we ended up playing flat in the 3rd and 4th quarter. They saw that and I think that woke them up. We had a crappy Tuesday and Wednesday, so now, our Tuesday and Wednesday, we're looking forward to them and (with) the senior leadership, we're not going to have a bad Tuesday and Wednesday because they know how it felt against Tennessee. That's just feeding off of that."
ON IF THROWING TO THE RUNNING BACKS IS A BIG PART OF HIS GAME:
"I would say the guys that they put in the backfield can catch the ball. I feel comfortable with what they're calling. Coach Cornelsen calls a great game in getting people and the running backs in open field and misdirection and all that. He just made my job that much easier."
ON HOW MUCH HE ENJOYED THE WEATHER AT UNC:
"It was like playing backyard football, so it was a pretty fun experience. I haven't played in a wet game like that. It's probably the wettest game I've ever played, so it's exciting."
ON IF HE'S EVER PLAYED IN A DOME:
"No, I haven't."
ON WHAT PEOPLE ARE TELLING HIM TO EXPECT:
"It's supposed to be really hot in there. Just hydrate and be ready to play. Simple as that."
ON WHAT TO EXPECT FROM SYRACUSE'S DEFENSE:
"They blitz a lot, so I'm gonna have to be really good in pass protection and striking with my hands and moving my feet."
ON IF HE FEELS HE'S IMPROVED HIS BLOCKING:
"Yeah, definitely. Just practicing every day with Coach (Zohn) Burden. He's done a great job with running backs and everything. I'm just continuing to just get better."
ON IF HE KNEW BURDEN WHEN HE WAS COACHING RECEIVERS:
"I just talked to him here and there, that was about it."
ON WHAT IT'S LIKE HAVING HIM AS A COACH:
"He's a really good coach. Very detailed, and he expects a lot from you. I'm just going to keep getting better and just keep improving on the things I need to improve on."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ON THE HOW THE RUNNING BACK ROTATION HAS WORKED SO FAR:
"Pretty well, we're winning games. That's all that matters at the end of the day."
ON HOW DIFFICULT THE CATCH HE HAD AT THE 1-YARD LINE WAS:
"The conditions just made it harder. Just had to focus more and continue to play. Jerod threw a good ball."
ON IF HE'S LOOKING FORWARD TO PLAYING INSIDE THE GOOD CONDITIONS IN A DOME:
"As a football player, you can never worry about the conditions. You've gotta do your job regardless. But it's definitely a plus, don't have to worry about any weather in a dome. They say the dome is real hot, so we're ready for that, too."
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH ANDREW MOTUAPUAKA AND HOW HE'S CHANGED SINCE HIGH SCHOOL:
"That's my brother. He changed a lot. He's definitely matured a lot — not saying he wasn't mature before — but now he's definitely an older player. He's a veteran on this team. He's the man on defense. He's like the quarterback of the defense now. You can see that when you watch him play. He's just comfortable, very comfortable. He was comfortable since Pittsburgh, first time he got in his freshman year, but now the whole country should know about it after what he did against Tennessee. Every week, he's ballin' every week. The whole country should know about him."
ON IF HE'S SEEN MOTUAPUAKA MATURE FROM HIS FRESHMAN YEAR:
"Definitely. From on the field to off the field, every aspect of his life, he's trying to be the best that he can possible be. Schoolwork, he's on top of everything. Anybody needs help, he can go to Drew. That's a good man right there."
ON HIS THOUGHTS OF THE 700 CLUB VIDEO ON MOTUAPUAKA:
"It was great. I've seen the change in person. To see where he's come from, a lot of things he's been through, to see where he's at now, where he's pushing to be, it motivates me to be a better man."
ON WHAT KIND OF CULTURE THE STAFF IS TRYING TO BUILD:
"Tough, that's the first thing. I'm not saying that Coach (Frank) Beamer didn't preach being tough, but they're on us about every little thing from missing study halls to being two minutes late to class. It was never like this. On the field, always gotta move. Never time to sit down and take a break. We're always on the move, working. It's a change for the positive for Virginia Tech and nothing but up from here."
ON THE PUNISHMENT FOR BEING LATE FOR CLASS:
"If you're late to class, it depends. It's 400 yards of plate pushes, but if you're a repeat offender, it goes up 100 yards every time."
ON IF HE'S DONE ANY PLATE PUSHES: