Hokies hold first practice in Charlotte ahead of Belk Bowl

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WDBJ) -- The Hokies took the practice field Friday morning for the first time since arriving in Charlotte for Tuesday's Belk Bowl against Kentucky.

The team is following a very similar schedule to its last Belk Bowl appearance in 2016, when Tech erased a 24-point halftime deficit to take down Arkansas.

It was a disappointing end to the regular season for the Hokies, who lost out on a chance to take the ACC Coastal at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers.

But head coach Justin Fuente says, much like their Belk Bowl counterparts, there's a lot to like about these Hokies going forward.

"We're similar to Kentucky I think in some ways in that they have a bunch of guys coming back next year," Fuente said. "We have a large portion of our squad coming back, so we want to put the focus on our improvement, pushing forward to next year, while sending our seniors out the right way."

It's also the last week of game preparation for Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who is set to retire following the Belk Bowl.

"As far as we're concerned, the future is now," said defensive lineman Jarrod Hewitt. "Everyone wants to talk about the future but we really just want to win this game. We want to send Coach Foster out the right way, the same as Coach Wiles. We have a lot of love for 'em. Our focus is on winning the game, but we definitely want to send him out the right way because he was a part of this just as much as anyone."

With only five seniors on the roster, the Hokies hope this game can be a springboard into continued growth and improvement in 2020.

"Just momentum just going into next year," said running back Deshawn McClease. "We don't take any game for granted. This is another game, we're not just looking at it like, 'OK, we're here to have fun.' Yeah, we're here to have fun, but we're also here to handle business."

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