MG VT Duke Fuente 092719

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente during the Virginia Tech—Duke University football game which Duke won 45-10.

BLACKSBURG — In the hours after Virginia Tech’s 45-10 home loss to Duke, Caleb Farley took to Twitter, but it wasn’t to vent his frustration or fire back at critics.

No, Farley, the Hokies’ sophomore cornerback, simply wanted to tell fans he was sorry for the team’s poor performance.

“That is embarrassing, I apologize to anyone who has any emotional investment to VT. Back to work,” Farley tweeted, followed by a “Beat Miami” hashtag.

“I usually don’t even use Twitter like that, but it was embarrassing,” Farley explained this week. “It was something I wanted to put out there and let the fans know and my teammates that it’s over and we are going to get back to work for Miami.”

Tech’s disappointing start to the season (2-2, 0-2 ACC) has the team struggling to stay positive as it fights to turn things around.

Even veteran leaders like junior linebacker Rayshard Ashby said it’s been a challenge to keep his head up. And Ashby, the former L.C. Bird High School star, said he knows coming to the sideline frustrated or sulking can be contagious.

“Personally, I think I’ve done an awful job at that,” Ashby said. “I definitely think right now I need to step up as a leader and when things go bad, I need to help the team keep our mindset up and we just need to focus on us. Personally, I think I did an awful job helping the team and overall getting the defense to change their mindset when things like that happen.”

For both sides of the ball, especially among younger players, that’s been an issue, particularly after turnovers. The Hokies have turned the ball over 11 times in four games, leading to six touchdowns for their opponents. They rank last in the ACC in turnover margin at minus-8 for the year.

Their opponent this week, Miami (2-2, 0-1), lead the conference in that statistic at plus-6. They’ve forced eight turnovers in four games.

“If we throw an interception or anything bad was to happen, we come to the sideline and some guys will be hanging their heads, stuff like that,” said junior guard Lecitus Smith. “We try to tell them, hey, keep your head up, next drive will be better, we’ve got to make it work. Just trying to keep high spirits instead of dropping our heads. I feel like when you drop your head, that’s when you’re really defeated.”

It’s even an area coach Justin Fuente said he was concerned with after reviewing video of his team’s reaction to an early lost fumble in the Duke game.

“It was pretty disappointing from that standpoint,” Fuente said. “We talked about that as a team. We certainly have to be mentally and emotionally tough enough to respond.”

Farley said he thought the team bounced back from Friday’s debacle with strong practices in preparation for the Miami game. The Hurricanes bounced back from their own slow start, winning the last two games after close losses to Florida and North Carolina.

Longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster said he still has confidence Tech can rebound from its poor start and salvage his final season on the sidelines.

“Everybody wants to win. Let me say that. Everybody wants to win. OK?” said Foster, who is retiring after the year. “You want a group of guys that hate to lose, though. That it really bothers them. That they put so much into this thing, so much strain, so much work, so much effort, so much preparation, that if you do get beat, it should hurt. And we’ve got to make sure that we have enough of those guys.”

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