It’s exactly how we drew it up. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 5-1 going into the bye after a 32-29 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg. It was a wild game, but also extremely frustrating on several levels. Fortunately for the Irish, they were able to dig down deep and get of there with a win after a couple of unscheduled quarterback changes — among other things.
This was another close game with the Hokies. Since 2016, Notre Dame is 3-1 against Virginia Tech and 2-1 in games decided by single digits.
A rough estimate would be that at least 80% of Notre Dame fans, and 95% of beat reporters thought starting Jack Coan over Drew Pyne was a mistake. Brian Kelly, who is well known as a wrench thrower, went with Coan to start the game. It went terribly for Coan and the Irish. In three drives, Coan was 2-3 for 15 yards and was sacked twice — both of which were him basically running into defenders behind the line.
Tyler Buchner was inserted into the game and gave the Irish offense a spark with two touchdown drives before the half. Buchner’s 2nd half was less legendary as the Irish offense sputtered. Tyler threw two interceptions, and one of them was returned for a touchdown.
Coan had to come back in late in the game after Buchner was hurt on his 2nd INT (that eventually turned into a TD for VT to go up 29-21). Coan — like he was never benched early in the game — came out and calmly marched the Irish down the field for the touchdown to Avery Davis, and the tying 2 PAT to Kevin Austin. Coan also did just enough to help put the Irish in position to win the game by getting them in field goal range.
So what’s next? Who the hell knows. Brian Kelly sidestepped the question after the game, because honestly, he isn’t sure what to do moving forward either. Is it telling that Drew Pyne didn’t play at all? Maybe — but I wouldn’t place any bet on any of the possible quarterback situations moving forward. Notre Dame is going into the bye week, so at least it gives Kelly and Tommy Rees more time to put together a game plan.
Notre Dame is suffering through a lot of different injuries right now, and are really digging into their freshman class for some help. With Michael Mayer out for the game, both Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans saw time at tight end — although Evans was ejected for targeting in the 3rd quarter. Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree were both banged up, so Logan Diggs saw his first time at running back this year. Left tackle Joe Alt was the starter at left tackle, and of course Tyler Buchner got plenty of playing time today. Deion Colzie also saw a nice handful of snaps against the Hokies.
Almost all of these situations were because of injuries, but given the sheer number of freshman on the field for the Irish (especially on offense) it was a great success to get off the field with a win.
Jonathan Doerer hasn’t been perfect this season — far from it as he’s had several missed field goals. But... for the second time this season, Doerer kicked the game winning field goal on the road. While Kelly was trying to get the referees to do something about a laser in the crowd, Doerer told his coach it was fine, and he just wants to kick it — and kick it he did. Jonathan drained a 48 yarder with 17 seconds left in the game to put the Irish at 5-1 on the season.
BEFORE THE HALF
For the second game in a row, Notre Dame’s defense loosened up right before halftime and allowed the opponent to move the ball down the field for a score. Against the Hokies it only resulted in three points, but it’s an alarming trend that will need to be corrected before the next six games on the schedule.
DAY ON THE GROUND
it wasn’t a huge explosion, but Notre Dame put together their best rushing game to date this season. The Irish ran for 173 yards on 43 carries (185 sack adjusted). Tyler Buchner certainly helped increase those totals with 67 yards, but Kyren Williams had a respectable day with 74 yards and a rushing touchdown. It’s, at the very least, something to build on moving forward.
Notre Dame’s offensive line probably had it’s best game of the season in Blacksburg. The 173 yards was nice, but seeing the Irish get real push up front against a good defensive front was very encouraging. Zeke Correll struggled early, and was replaced by Andrew Kristofic. Joe Alt allowed a sack early in the game, but played much better as the game went on. The two sacks were the least allowed this season, and one of those was because Jack Coan stepped right into a defender before going to the ground. Both Buchner and Coan had greater time to deliver throws, although the offense was still using that extra tight end and second back to help.
J.D. Bertrand had a rough game against the Cincinnati Bearcats, but returned to form against the Hokies with a 10 tackle game. Virginia Tech was a tricky team to defend because of how good Burmeister was on his feet, but Bertrand helped keep a lot of plays from developing while using his instincts and physical play.
FOSKEY ON THE RUN
Isaiah Foskey did get his team leading 5th sack of the season on Saturday night, but you saw that he was consistently coming off the edge and chasing down the play behind the line of scrimmage. He was only credited with one QBH, but his presence was well known — but ineffective a lot of times. Burmeister continually was able to go the other direction, and gained quite a few yards. Notre Dame’s defense has to be able to fill those lanes quicker and better if Foskey’s pressure is going to provide peak value.
- Notre Dame was terrible on third down again, going 3-12 on the night.
- The Irish were perfect in the redzone against the Hokies going 4-4 with all four scores as touchdowns. Best performance all season.
- The Irish had a +6 point differential off of turnovers.
- For the second game in a row, the Irish fell behind 10-0 early.
- Jayson Ademilola continues to have a very strong season — albeit quiet one.
- I’m going to have to dig deeper into the post game scuffle in the endzone — but I liked it.
- There were at least two hits out of bounds on Irish ball carriers that never got flagged, and I’m pissed about it. Both Notre Dame and Virginia Tech had players ejected in the 2nd half for targeting, but the Irish had a roughing the passer call on Kyle Hamilton that was also very questionable. ACC refs suck ass — COME AT ME CLEARWALL/GODBACKER.