BLACKSBURG - One of the biggest hits from Virginia Tech’s 22-19 win over North Carolina came on the sidelines after the clock hit zero.

Coach Justin Fuente bounded up and downs on the sidelines before bowling over defensive coordinator Bud Foster with a bear hug turned tackle.

“I think he put his forehead right on this VT right here,” Foster said, pointing at the logo on his pullover after the game. “He’s a little heavier than I am right now. I think I’ve dropped 15 or 20 pounds chasing these young defensive guys around. He put me down pretty good. You know what? If we can do that after a win every time I’ll take that.”

The celebration came after an improbable 18-play, 98-yard game-winning drive, a drive that wouldn’t have been possible without the Hokies defense forcing a fumble at the goal line.

Fuente isn’t known for being a demonstrative coach, but once in a while his emotions get the best of him. The spontaneous celebration Saturday was the culmination of a tumultuous stretch for the program going all the way back to the spring.

“Quite candidly, it’s been a way-too-eventful nine or 10 months,” Fuente said, during Virginia Tech’s off-week. “Some of it is beyond our control, obviously, the weather and those sorts of things, but there’s been nothing normal about anything over the last nine months.”

The drama started in April when recently promoted assistant coach Galen Scott resigned and continued into the summer months with Adonis Alexander and Mook Reynolds being dismissed from the program. Their departures left a defense with little experience reeling.

As things looked to settle down, rumors swirled about starting quarterback Josh Jackson’s academic eligibility.

Virginia Tech hoped it would be smooth sailing after Jackson was cleared to play, but a series of twists and turns has defined the 2018 season from having a game against East Carolina cancelled to suffering one of the worst losses in program history to Old Dominion.

“It’s up to us to control the things that we can control, and grow up and mature so that we can get on a little bit more of a regular pace here,” Fuente said. “You’ve just got to adapt. It does you no good to pout or whine about it or do anything other than continue to teach those lessons and be ready for change.”

That loss to Old Dominion proved costly with Jackson suffering a season-ending injury late in the game. Fuente also dismissed starting defensive end Trevon Hill from the team the morning after the loss.

Despite all the upheaval, Virginia Tech is 3-0 in the ACC at the off week and one of the only Power 5 teams in the country with three road wins [two over ranked opponents].

“It has not been normal, but what’s normal? You know?” Fuente said. “You’re coaching a bunch of kids that are working hard and trying to improve and want to play well and represent Virginia Tech. I’m enjoying them. I really am. We’ve got some really good people that we’re enjoying being around on a daily basis.”

It’s why Fuente let loose after the game Saturday against North Carolina.

“One of the best things about being the head coach is watching your kids celebrate,” Fuente said. “These kids sacrifice a lot..to see those kids together battle through some ups and downs and heartache and make sacrifices, from getting up early to working hard to trying to eat right to study hall to going to class, all those sorts of things. And one of the neat things for us is we see these kids behind closed doors working their tails off, to see them get to cut loose and get to celebrate together, whether it’s with the fans or with the locker room afterward, you take that moment selfishly. And I try to enjoy that. I enjoy watching them get to have success and ultimately that’s what we want.”

Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook.

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